Thursday 3 April 2014

The French, Manchester.

If anyone asks me what the best restaurant in Manchester is, I have no hesitation in saying The French. That being the case, you might ask why it's taken me a year to return after it opened last year. This is because I don't believe in doing things by halves, so when we eat there, I want everything on offer, in this case, the full 10 course taster menu which is now priced at £84. This represents excellent value for money though considering, as you're getting top flight Michelin Star level food from Simon Rogan. World class cuisine and service simply costs money. However, I only have limited amounts in my budget and there were lots of other places I wanted to go to last year including L'Enclume, the flagship.
It would be interesting to see how The French has changed in a year. Although Simon Rogan will soon be talking the helm at Fera in Claridge's, he is still very much in charge of The French and L'Enclume whereas he's delegated his other restaurants, Mr Cooper's and Rogan and Co (which we will soon be visiting) to his 'lieutenants', chef's Kevin Tickle and Gareth Jones. Incidentally, Mr Cooper's House and Garden is probably my second favourite restaurant in town right now.
Coming in from Mr Cooper's House where we ordered a cocktail each, it's still a 'wow' moment when entering the room, the huge chandeliers never lose their sparkle. It's still just about recognisable from this old photo from 1930 though. 
We were warmly welcomed like old friends by restaurant manager, Kamila Plonska. (Our dining companions, the ladies who lunch, came here three times last year and were also regulars at L'Enclume). You know I often mention the rarity of really great service, well she has it in abundance. It's utter charm mixed with complete professionalism. I must also mention our sommelier Filippo Zito who is a major part of the fantastic team here. After a fabulous mojito from next door, I ordered a bottle of Abadia de San Campio Rias Baixas Albariño (2012). The wine itself was beautiful, clean and fresh, exactly what I wanted, I just about swallowed the hefty £40 price tag (about £10 retail, representing a 300% mark up) and looked forward to what was to come. 
I'm not going to go into every course, the pictures will tell the story, but for us, the food has come on even more than last year under head chef Adam Reid. It was all simply stunning, on the next level we thought. My favourite part of the meal here and at L'Enclume are the little snacks you get at the beginning, and they keep coming, I love it. I think since last year, pretty much everything is new, apart from the signature dish, Ox in coal oil. So we had as follows; Rye, mackerel, lovage. 
Trotter, ham fat cream, sage.
Celeriac and apple.
Baked potato with cheese.
Smoked cod, pickled mushrooms, marrow and garlic.
Quail eggs with leeks, kale and mustard.
Swede dumplings, duck yolk sauce, onion and nasturtium.
Ox in coal oil, pumpkin seed, kohlrabi and sunflower shoots. The classic and the best dish in Manchester.
Caramelised cabbage, scallops, coastal herbs, smoked roe.
Baby beets, Ragstone cheese and artichoke, cresses.
Roasted hake with seeded breadcrumbs, roasted cauliflower and mussels.
Cumbrian Rose veal, bacon fat potatoes, turnips, hen of the woods and rosemary.
Additional cheese course. 
 Forced Yorkshire rhubarb, crab apple, Douglas fir oats, yoghurt.
'Lancashire coals' with liquorice, fennel and milk. This was the only dish none of us rated quite so much, the flavour was good, but the hard texture of the 'cake' seemed to be a bit jarring.
Thinking about other restaurants, I wouldn't say it's comparable to a one star restaurant, I'd say the food is at a two star level, especially when considering it against other two stars we've visited in recent times (The Square, Marcus Wareing, Calima). That's food and service too, which is never stuffy at The French as it can be in London restaurants. (Incidentally, I think L'Enclume deserves three stars). But then again, who knows the mystery of the Michelin inspectors?
The French is not only the best restaurant in Manchester in my opinion, it's streets ahead of the competition and it's one of the best in the country. I can't think of a better way of spending a Saturday afternoon but with friends, eating, drinking and enjoying the luxurious pleasure of it all. I hope we can return sooner than later next time as The French can only get even better.
To see more photos click here.
To see the current wine list click here.
The French by Simon Rogan on Urbanspoon

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