I watched the programme Restaurant Wars - Battle for Manchester with Simon Rogan from The French and Aiden Byrne from Manchester House, hoping to gain a Michelin Star for the city. I have been to Manchester House (see my review here) and also visited Simon Rogan's restaurant L'Enclume in Cartmel over ten years ago, before he achieved his second star.
I had been meaning to contact The French for awhile as my husband was dying to try it, so I contacted Restaurant Manager Kamila Plonska, who was most helpful, liasing with Head Chef Adam as to my vegan diet and allergy issues. I was offered either a six or ten course tasting menu. with my choice being six, as I am not sure I could manage ten.
On arrival we met Kamila, whose friendly attitude made us feel welcome, so we immediately felt relaxed, as she told us a little about the history of the restaurant, which dates back to 1903. I know some of the restaurants loyal customers, prior to Simon Rojan taking over, were a little perturbed at the new decor and colour scheme, but times move on and I thought the refurbishment was sympathetic in its surroundings. I was given my menu, asked if I was happy with the dishes suggested, which I definitely was so it was left on the table, so I could refer back to it.
There is a wine flight offered to accompany the tasting menu, but we decided to choose wine by the glass, so I kicked off with Nyetimber a British sparkling wine, then Sipp Mack Riesling finishing with Karasi, a gorgeous red Armenian wine, who knew they made wine in Armenia. All the wines were vegan due to their production method and I am hoping one day wine and beer lists will reflect how they are fined, so I do not have to try and remember, as my memory is not as good as it used to be!
The first course (or what I thought was the first course) was actually two small amuse bouche, but not what I was expecting. The chickpea was actually made into a crisp, spread with a delicious, what I can only describe as a rich tomato chutney, with celery and edible flowers.
The parsnip appeared as a crispy wafer, topped with pickled cabbage and leek cream, with micro herbs, two wonderful titbits to wet the appetite.
I was then given some delicious sourdough, with a small bowl of rapeseed oil, instead of butter, which was a nice touch.
Second course was golden turnip dumplings, resembling very light gnocchi, with crispy onion rings, onion petals and a mushroom broth, which I would describe as a ketchup, it was so deep and rich in flavour.
Next was potatoes with caramelised cabbage, horseradish, salsify and scurvy oil, presentation was pretty stunning on the eye and the dish said "eat me" it was so good and I hope no-one was watching, as I wiped the plate with my finger, as I did not want to leave any of the sauce!
I had heard of "hen of the woods" mushrooms, but never eaten them until tonight, served with carrot puree, baby carrots and barbecued broccoli, another fabulous tasting dish.
The last savoury dish was hay baked celeriac, crispy kales, buckwheat, pickled kohlrabi, with a creamy sauce described as hazelnut milk, which was so delicious and nothing like any hazelnut milk I have ever had.
To finish was poached pear, buckthorn sorbet, gooseberry jam and candied walnuts, a very delicate dish, with one of the smoothest sorbets I have eaten, a perfect end to the meal.
We got to meet Head Chef Adam, who was so enthusiastic and passionate, he showed us where they grow micro herbs in a special cabinet with perfect light conditions for growth and incredibly they have a roof garden, who would have thought. He seemed to have no concerns about catering for any dietary requirement or allergy either, perhaps he likes the challenge.
My blog only includes restaurant visits as a vegan over the last year, but I have dined at numerous one, two and three Michelin restaurants in the past, becoming jaded with fine dining along the way. This first visit to The French has made me want to experience fine dining again, I was not expecting to like it.....but I loved it. Service throughout was spot on, ultra professional, yet friendly from the young team looking after us, the cooking is modern, light yet packed with flavour and includes unusual ingredients. I like the fact that my menu, included amended versions of what my husband was having, like the turnip dumplings dish and the dessert.
Why this place has not been awarded the first Michelin Star for Manchester is beyond me. I hope Adam and Kamila, if they happen to read my review, realise that I will be returning, sooner rather than later, as the whole experience was wonderful.