I really do love it when something surpasses your expectations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does it really changes your perspectives and also your level of standards and excitement. Especially when it comes to food. We were visiting Manchester for one night to visit one of this cities best restaurants, The French. But what I wasn’t told is that this wasn’t just one of the best restaurants in Manchester, but simply put – the best restaurant in Manchester.
Head chef, Adam Reid became a bit of a celebrity whilst appearing on Great British Menu back in 2016 and since then has had even bigger boots to fill. Previously working under Simon Rogan here at The French, he’s now leading the kitchen after Simon’s departure and creating some truly marvellous dishes with an impeccable army of staff to help serve it. It’s fun, creative and the dining room is stunning. From what I can tell the room has had a bit of a transformation too, for the better.
We had a little chat with Adam and I really loved his whole ethos of creating true British fine dining. Nowadays fine dining menus are an accumulation of ingredients from across the world and ‘modern European’ has become the descriptor so many of us use. But personally ‘Modern’ and ‘British’ sound to me like a more confident kitchen who knows what they’re doing. We started our journey here with a cheeky glass of Champagne and some gorgeous canapés. Stunning hot smoked sausages on sticks, baby potatoes smothered in cheese & truffle and crispy puffed skin with a rich fish roe dip. With this much flavour, we knew it was about to get even more exciting.
Dining from the tasting menu, our first dish to arrive was this red prawn and fermented tomato. What tasted like raw prawns I’m assuming was most likely a ceviche of sorts but either way it was packed with flavour, gorgeous textures and a real taste of the sea.
As the evening went on, each dish simply got better. One of my absolute favourite dishes from the tasting menu was this courgette flower fried in nut oil. Advised to pick up the whole flower with our hands and scoop up the chilli scented shrimp sauce at the bottom of the bowl. A little heat, sweetness, saltiness and anything else you can imagine. It had that real umami element to it which created a whirlwind on the palate.
Tater ‘ash as it referred to on the menu. I really had no idea what was about to arrive, but soon discovered it was a sort of potato hash casserole, served with Mrs Raffalde’s mushroom catsup which was the rich sauce surrounding the sweet vegetable topping and meaty hash filing. A superb dish with lots of surprises and very comforting.
Lancashire Tasty and onion tart came topped with lovage and salad – a pastry masterpiece. Flaky and buttery, perfectly constructed and again packed with flavour. You could really taste the punchy Lancashire Tasty cheese and the whole thing simply fell apart in the mouth.
I found it really difficult to find fault from our evening at The French, but there was one dish I felt didn’t quite match up to the rest of the menu. Almond poached brill with artichoke and basil. It looked like a clean plate of food and it tasted very clean too. I enjoyed the almond flavour they infused into the fish but I just something I felt was missing. Again, I must stress this was still a very good dish, just simply not as good as the rest.
Rather full by this point in our meal, but the Cumbrian lamb with peas, lettuce and ramson juices went down with ease. The lamb was beautifully cooked and with a good meaty depth to it. The fat was very well rendered down too and the ramson juice added just the right amount of richness and quantity for the dish.
We then moved onto my favourite part of the meal – desserts! As part of the re-modelled dining room I love the addition of its new chef’s counter. You can watch an army of experts creating and finishing dishes right in front of you with tweezers and giant gold apples, I’ll get to that shortly.
Clementine, white chocolate and buckthorn. Such an inventive and well thought out dish compared to similar encounters I’ve had. What looks like a version of Heston’s meat fruit, is actually a sweet and fragranced dessert masked as a clementine. The light mouse filling was a surprise in itself, but the actual dish is deeper than it looks and underneath a moist sponge with a nice citrus steak running through it. The raspberry tart with anise hyssop custard was another stunning creation from the team.
When then went on to try Adam’s signature dessert which we all know from BBC’s Great British Menu – Golden Empire. A huge golden apple with a map of the world inside, containing a golden glazed crunchy apple which reveals an apple mousse and apple sauce. A lovely dish and the perfect ending to our meal.
Oh, and some petit fours of course. Again – outstanding.
I’m so glad I returned to Manchester after almost 10 years as it meant I got to discover The French. An Exquisite restaurant serving modern British food in a gorgeous dining room with impeccable service. Manchester may not be on everyone’s travel bucket list, but Adam Reid at The French should be.
NB: My meal was complimentary. All views are as always, my own. My views are not influenced by anyone other than my own palate and slightly poor eyesight.