I visited previously, when Adam was head chef, so I was really looking forward to seeing the changes, now he is at the helm, instead of his predecessor Simon Rojan. Our visit was to celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary and Steven's birthday the following day, so we wanted somewhere special.
I liased with Restaurant Manager Kamila, as to my vegan dietary requirements and allergies, all handled very professionally and without fuss.
At weekends you dine from a nine course tasting menu, priced at £85 per person, not cheap but definitely a place to celebrate a special occasion
I chose a rather expensive organic wine to accompany dinner (having had a large tax rebate from HMRC the day before, I was in push the boat out mode). Gratavinum follow me on Twitter and this was the first time I had seen their wines on a list before, but what a gorgeous lush wine, powerful at 15.5% and I had to pace myself, so it lasted through to the end of the meal.
Next course was smoked tomato, made up of different varieties, with a slight smoky flavour, cress and radish, I wish I could make such delicate flavour packed dishes, it was delicious.
The next dish was another favourite, braised artichokes in barigoule juices, a traditional Provencal dish, served with fresh herbs, a delightful dish, I just adore artichokes.
Lacto fermented vegetable followed, with my trust in chef that the lacto element, was not dairy based, with pickled vegetables and edible flowers, a dainty and precise rainbow of colours on the plate, very refreshing and clean tasting.
An in between course was granary bread, rapeseed oil and a small cup of flavour packed tomato consomme, sadly my photo is poor as the crockery again was very dark, but gorgeous flavours.
Hay baked celeriac and leeks was the sixth course, you do get lost where you are up to, so I had to keep referring back to my menu. Presentation, as with all the dishes was spectacular, although not being a celeriac fan, this was one of my least favourite dishes.
My final savoury course was caramelised sweetheart cabbage, with peas and hazelnut, a very interesting dish, with a cheesy flavour, perhaps they used yeast in the foam, I loved the flavours.
At this point in the evening, we were asked if we would like to go to the chef's counter, to see the preparation of our desserts, we were hardly going to say no. A young lady chef was in charge of my first dessert of macerated strawberries and an extremely fine sugar strawberry shell, which cracked open with a tap of the spoon, to reveal the sorbet. This was another star of the evening, an elegant refined dish and stunning to look at.
To finish was kalamansi sorbet (a fruit very much like kumquat according to chef) with rhubarb, rice cracker and some of the berries off Steven's dessert, which I think were wimberries, it was a perfect end to the meal, very refreshing.
We were well looked after by several of the front of house team and I particularly enjoyed my chats with Jessica, a fellow vegan and also Kamila. I love the feel of The French now, not as stuffy or formal, with a fantastic playlist of music in the background, not too loud not too quiet, fabulous choices chef.
My only niggles are the vegan menu is light on carbs and protein for me, with an emphasis just on vegetables and does it warrant the same price tag as the tasting menu offered to other diners. I suppose I have to take into account that the menu was personalised just for me and of course I am a pain with my allergies.
The French should take the bull by the horns and offer a vegan menu, as The Midland has with vegan afternoon tea in The Tearoom, which I reviewed back in April (see here). There is a huge expanding vegan community in Manchester, many of whom are young professionals and foodies, who love to dine out and with the new chilled out feel to The French, a vegan menu would be ground breaking for a fine dining establishment. I have dined in 1, 2 and 3 Michelin Star restaurants in the past and not one offered a vegan menu, so let us hope that The French finally gets that deserved Michelin star, with a vegan menu to follow sometime soon.