Simon Rogan’s flagship Manchester venue delivers intricate, ingenious dishes assembled from the simplest of parts. The £84 tasting menu is a must
Manchester’s food lovers are forever fretting over the city’s lack of a Michelin star, but that might be about to change as executive chef Simon Rogan is at the top of his game. Over the years, he’s turned more and more to local, seasonal ingredients, showcasing the bare bones of flavour on imaginatively designed plates at his restaurants in Cartmel (the two Michelin star L’Enclume), at Claridges (Fera), and this, The French, in Manchester’s ornate Victorian-era railway hotel, The Midland.
Radical, modern Euro cooking with a Scandi-edge – the sort that’s placed Copenhagen’s Noma at the top of many ‘world’s best restaurant’ lists – is the result. Yet there is a distinctly northern English twang to a menu so devoted to local produce that it eschews continental imports like olive oil.
You’ll experience textural and sensory saturation as you make your way through six (£59) or ten (£84) captivating courses that may include raw ox in home-made coal oil with baubles of mustard-ish sauce and kohlrabi or swede dumplings with duck yolk sauce, onion and nasturtium. It’s clear that Rogan’s got a way with work-a-day ingredients (like squash, eggs and oats), re-etching them into the palate in previously inconceivable ways.
Familiar vegetables like swede, beet or cabbage often from the basis of recipes adapted from Rogan’s first restaurant, L’Enclume. The ox, for example, is almost an exact replica of L’Enclume’s venison with the meat changed. Our only Marmite moments came at dessert time, with a muesli-esque rhubarb and yoghurt combo. Pudding, perhaps, isn’t his forte, yet new takes on sarsaparilla and liquorice stick in the mind.
The restaurant oozes a sense of destination. But like L’Enclume’s gentle stone-shaded interior and whittled tables, there’s a modernist bent to The French restaurant’s re-design. A huge, multi-globed chandelier makes every meal bling, as does the price tag. Yet perfectly pitched portion sizes and an expert wine list with choices for both new world and classic palates means you won’t regret going for broke.