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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Fraiche, Merseyside.

The current Number One restaurant in the country (according to the Sunday Times Top 100 Restaurants list) is less than an hour's drive from my house and yet we still hadn't managed to secure a booking. The problem was that whenever I remembered it was the first of the month (when the on-line reservations open), it was already too late. I had a look the other day just to see how long you had to wait and surprisingly there was a table for two this weekend. Unfortunately, their website had actually crashed leaving them overbooked. But luckily for us, our reservation was confirmed a few days later.
Sunday lunch is a very reasonable £38 for four courses. When you consider what that gets you these days in contrast to the astonishing cooking of chef Marc Wilkinson, it's even more of a bargain.
People quite often say to me; with all the posh restaurants you go to, don't you get overly fussy? Yes and no. You can still enjoy a good burger but you inevitably judge it by all the other burgers you've eaten. In the category of single Michelin star restaurants, we've recently eaten at the likes of Fera, Clove Club and Kitchen Table. Strong competition. But Fraiche more than holds it's own. In fact we find it to be flawless cooking with bold (the beef for example) and delicate dishes (the asparagus) utilising faultless technique. But the innovation is never at the expense of the vivid flavours which as we know from experience, can be hard to pull off. I can barely even choose a favourite course, it is all so accomplished. He makes the ingredients really sing. We're cooing to each other, 'did you get that bit yet?' with each little delectable part. But it's fun too, a joy to eat, (not always the case) with the likes of the signature grapes that fizz on your tongue and space dust in the dessert that crackle in your mouth. (Always a favourite of mine). We rifle through a drawer full of menus, I take a look at El Celler de can Roca and ABaC (I still bitterly regret cancelling our reservation here due to lack of funds especially when looking at the menu). The inspiration from these world class restaurants is evident but it has it's own identity.
Service is accomplished and slick too. I know they've worked hard on improving the dining room. It isn't quite the elegant space it really could be but it's getting there and this really requires outside sourcing. I read that Marc likes to do most things himself. I'm hoping that he chooses the city stage of Manchester for a rumoured expansion.
Rice Cracker - yuzu - taramasalata.
Rhubarb bitters.
Shitake - beetroot - feta.
Asparagus - goats curd - hens yolk.
Cauliflower - mushroom - white port. 
Tuna - watercress - ung choi.
Dexter Beef - Kohirabi - salsify. If there has to be a favourite, I would choose this one. This beef is remarkable, it has a second distinctive note underneath, almost like a well aged cheese.
Cheese. We selected Pont-l'Évêque, Colline aux chèvres, Bleu des Basques, Ossau-iraty and Monks Folly from the impressive cheese trolley. (One is accompanied with fresh honey).
Chocolate-apricot-green tea. 
Fizzy Grapes. 
Petit Fours. 
Days later as I write this, I'm still buzzing off the food we had at Fraiche. If anything, instead of chalking it down as a 'done that' restaurant, it's made me hungry for more. Luckily for us, in the mix up of bookings we had a July reservation too. I wouldn't miss that for the world.
To see more photos in hi res click here.
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