Ooh la la – The French by Simon Rogan

You may or may not have seen some mutterings on Twitter that it was my birthday last week. To celebrate becoming yet another year older and not necessarily wiser, we took a trip over to Manchester to sample Simon Rogan’s new offering The French, headed up by head chef Adam Reid. Having opened earlier this year to rave reviews, I booked our table back in June and eagerly awaited our visit.

The French itself is housed in a beautifully opulent dining room within the hotel. Old meets new in the Victorian interior fused with Scandinavian furniture – a nod to the styling in Rogan’s other restaurants.

The restaurant offers two choices during the evenings, a six course menu or a ten course. Being the greedy guts we are, we obviously went for the ten course feast and then really pushed the boat out with ten paired wines – the majority of which were white, all of which matched beautifully and our sommelier was on had to answer any of our questions.

However, to really start the evening off, cocktails were the order of the day for our aperitifs, which were brought over from the French’s sister restaurant Mr Cooper’s House and Garden. Beautifully crafted, we sipped and chatted away whilst the canapes arrived.

As usual, I am not going to bore you with long winded descriptions of each of the dishes, I managed to take some decent photos so I’ll let these seduce you into dining there instead!

Canapes
Starting from top left, clockwise:

  • Crispy kale, chicken skin, horseradish
  • Crab, seawater, sorrel
  • Rye, mustard and linseeds
  • Black pudding, Cumberland sauce, sage

The canapes were a hit of beautifully contrasting textures and flavours. My favourites were too close to call between the kale and the crab.

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Westcombe cheddar, potato, toasted bread, chives
Cheesy, oniony and with a delicious crunch – I joked with the others that this tasted like the best packet of cheese and onion crisps ever.

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Grilled Radish, leek and watercress, ham and mustard seed
This ham and mustard salad was nice and light after the cheesy hot of the course before – peppery and salty

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Bread
Our favourite course! On offer were a selection of Manchester ale, buttermilk and baguettes, complete with cheeky “nipples” 🙂

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Broth of mushroom, salt baked swede, smoked yolk and English truffles
Again, this dish was rich, creamy and comforting – the umami hit from the mushroom broth paired well with the sweet swede and creamy yolk

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Ox in coal oil, pumkin seed, kohlrabi and sunflower shoots
“Oh my” Is all I had to say about this dish – for me, the standout of the evening and I loved every course! This ox tartare is flavoured with coal oil which imparts a rich charcoal flavour to the meat. I could’ve eaten ten courses of this it was that good. Really.

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Caramelised cabbage, scallops, coastal herbs, smoked roe
Lots of chefs are char-grilling leafy veg to add another depth of flavour. The cabbage was earthy and smoky, which the soft sweet scallop and the salted roe balanced so well.

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Late Autumn offerings, vegetables, herbs and flowers, lovage salt
We had to get more veg into us somehow and this salad of seasonal leaves and pumpkin gave us a light precursor to our main courses…

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Plaice with carrots, bone marrow and nasturtium
The plaice was perfectly cooked and melt in the mouth – the sweet fish married well with the textures of carrot. I only wish I had more than just the one piece of breadcrumbed marrow!

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Reg’s duck, blewits, turnip and mugwort
Who’s Reg? I assumed he is one of the suppliers, which he is indeed. Reg Johnson, one of the owners of Johnson and Swarbrick, Goosnargh Ltd and producer of poultry. The duck was cooked beautifully (Funnily enough our waitress told us this was pork!) and I loved the duck skin crackling.

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Apples, woodruff, sweet cheese and hazelnut
Our beautiful first dessert was perfect for cleansing our palettes. Think of this as a deconstructed apple crumble and you’re about a third of the way there. This paired beautifully with our raisin heavy dessert wine.

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Macerated berries with yoghurt, toasted oats and anise hyssop
Another light, fruity dessert which is synonymous with Rogan’s “natural” ethos. The raspberry tuile was fun and the balance of textures were perfect.

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Sass ‘n’ soda
Our surprise finale was a shot of sarsaparilla soda with a sarsaparilla meringue sandwich -this gave a good hit of sweetness if you felt that the desserts weren’t naughty enough!

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Petit fours
Despite being devastatingly full, we didn’t want to miss out on the petit fours. below are the aerated mint chocolate and we were also served chocolate tuiles.

20131028-162150.jpgAll in all I had an awesome evening and the meal is definitely up there as one of the best of the year. The whole meal lasted about 4 hours, but it didn’t seem so. The food is stunning and I personally couldn’t fault any course. The atmosphere is pretty informal without any pomp which I loved and the staff were friendly and attentive too. Dan spotted some of the L’Enclume staff in the restaurant so its obvious that there are ambitions for the French to be the next big thing.

I won’t lie, our evening wasn’t cheap but to my mind it was worth every penny – I had a really fun night and I would definitely return, just have to organise when!

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