The French by Simon Rogan is located inside the historic Midland Hotel in the heart of central Manchester. It was Rogans first venture outside the sleepy village of Cartmel in Cumbria, home to his iconic L’enclume, which remains in my husbands and I’s opinion, the place where we had the best meal of our lives. This being said, it wasn’t surprising that we were hotly anticipating eating at the French.
The chandeliers that dominate the high ceilinged room are pretty magnificent, and are a great contrast to the simplicity of the tables and furniture, a nod to the decor back at L’enclume.
We had planned before going to ‘just’ have the 6 course menu (we were eating a lot in a few days!) but we just couldn’t resist the 10 course once we got there. Mainly because of the inclusion of one particular dish. I’ll get to that later! We started with some ‘snacks';
- Trotter, ham fat cream, sage
- Baked potato with cheese
- Mackerel, celery and tomato
As usual, we were astounded by the flavours they manage to get into things so small – each tiny element bursts with the most intense taste. All 3 were superb, I can’t really say anything more. Bread as usual, perfectly cooked. Lee adored the buttermilk roll, I preferred the bittersweetness of the treacle one. There was a third bread as you can probably guess by the gap in the picture, I don’t remember what it was, we’d devoured it already!
So next up was something that on paper, doesn’t sound like my cup of tea – Smoked Maran yolk with yellow turnip, truffle and a broth of mushrooms, but boy does that prove to me that I shouldn’t ever judge a dish without tasting it – the depth of flavour of the broth, the silky smooth egg made for a winner of a dish.
After this came the one course, and one ingredient that by itself swayed us from the 6 to the 10 course menu. Ox in coal oil, pumpkin seed,kohlrabi and sunflower shoots. The coal oil is that one thing that Lee feels is simply the most amazing thing that has ever been invented. We first tried it in a dish at L’enlcume with venison and since then that dish has remained probably the best one we’ve had. This one again gave it a run for its money and the sunflower seeds added yet another dimension.
Breaded oyster, buttersquash with bacon buttermilk and mint was next. Another well rounded, interesting dish.
After this, Pickled beetroot with sunflower seeds, yoghurt, horseradish and cresses. The pickling of the beetroot was spot on, and he managed to transform an ingredient that its well known I’m not that keen on.
The ‘fish’ course was Butter poached hake, salt baked abalone,leeks and cockles. The leek elements were my favourite bits of this dish – pureé, charred and perfectly suited the flaking fish.
The second best dish of the night came next, and combination of ingredients and flavours which ate just perfectly; Valley venison, roasted parsnips, cavolo nero with crab apple and cider. I’ve never eaten crab apple before but it added a lovely bit of sharpness. I could have eaten this dish 5 times over.
Now onto the dessert courses – neither as good as the savoury courses in our opinion. All interesting flavours, clean fresh and well cooked but nothing blew our minds. First was the Blackberries, liquorice, malt,duck egg and pear and lastly the Baked quince, bay leaf, ginger biscuit and brown butter ice cream. This ice cream was delicious though, and the stand out bit of the puds for me.
We really couldn’t fault our meal at the French, and it would go straight in the top 5 of our all time meals. The service was fab, friendly and not too stuffy, it is nice when staff of such an upmarket place are able to have a bit of a laugh and a joke as well. It astounds me why they weren’t awarded a Michelin Star this year, but I’m sure it will come.
Disclosure: We paid in full for the meal, and the restaurant were not aware we may be writing about the meal.