What with all these food ordering apps, you can get dinner delivered from your favourite restaurant and never even know what the inside looks like. Which is in some cases a blessing perhaps, better to use your imagination. One place you’re not likely to find on Deliveroo anytime soon is The French, but there’s a new air of mystery about the venue nonetheless following their recent refresh. A little terrace now separates it properly from the Midland lobby, offering a well earned touch of seclusion, and there’s also a new name above the door too, as Adam Reid is busy putting his own stamp on the venue. We went along to sample his new six course taster and see what other tricks he had up his sleeve.
Our first bite was actually a cracker or two and a bit of taramasalata with some English fizz whilst we sat outside the dining room. It’s a nice little spot now to be fair too, one which I could quite happily enjoy a drink whether dining or not. Moving inside we were greeted with our first proper dish, and the snap crackle and pop of a piece of pork belly coated in a sort of pork scratching crumb. Up next a stem spoon of sprouting broccoli, fried in nut oil and primed ready to dip in a pungent cheese and truffle blob, another lovely bite, with an outstanding wine to go with it. The barrel aged Castagnara Il Pratello was almost whisky-like with its earthy, peaty notes. Our wine flight from Head Sommelier Filippo Zito kept us on our toes throughout though in fairness. Another particular highlight was the Amebuki Sake, a vibrantly pink rosé which takes its colour from red rice, it matched the rouget in colour and was a real grower too.
Our next course brought together raw steak, pickled celeriac, finely diced onion, nasturtium and mushroom catsup. Dainty as this dish was, I couldn’t help notice it tasted like a cheese burger, and I mean I like cheeseburgers, so this was more compliment than complaint – although I’m not sure our waiter took it that way. That combination of beef, onion and pickle was only saying one thing to me though, OH MY DAYUM! We then enjoyed a bread course with malted and sourdough loaves, alongside the obligatory fancy butters, and also a beefy dipping broth. Simple but effective.
I always get the feeling if I was to burn a piece of lettuce it definitely wouldn’t turn out looking as appetising as the one above. Our fish course supplied the delicate flavours of rouget, a shrimp and tomato sauce, then that scorched salad. Certainly a feast for the eyes as well as the belly, fantastic looking dish, coupled beautifully with that aforementioned sake. The main event of salt aged duck was presented to us whole as our we learnt the curing process it had been through. This served to pique my interest and when our portions turned up they were no let down. Crisp fried mushroom, pickled cherry juices and beetroot all improved upon that lovely bit of bird, served succulently pink, with extra bits of darker meat in a saucepan alongside – a nicely casual addition I thought.
For dessert, a pretty pink rhubarb and custard tart was somehow upstaged by a serious amount of nutmeg, making this little thing quite out of the ordinary. Brilliant in fact. Chatting to Adam Reid as he prepared his final piece, the Golden Empire, he acknowledged many chefs can’t wait for forced rhubarb season. I’d had to confess I look forward to it too, I suppose you need to have something to hope for in February.
The famous dessert is all about another winter fruit though, the empire apple, and it’s definitely a must-order if you make it to the French. A paper thin blown sugar apple filled will custard, stewed apple, hazelnut crumble propped on frozen apple. It’s a stunning finale to proceedings, fun playful food, and it was fantastic to see it prepared right in front of us.
As Manchester continually seems to up its restaurant game it’s great to see the ambition to keep pushing things alive and well at places like The French. I like the more casual redesign and atmosphere, and the food and wine is hugely impressive too. Has one of the city’s best has just gone up a notch?
The French by Adam Reid
The Midland Hotel, Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS
0161 235 4780