The French at The Midland, or rather, I should say, Adam Reid at The French, as it is known today, has always seemed like one of those impossibly fancy places that a scruffy food lover like myself with slightly-dirty trainers could never belong.
As a wet behind the ears undergraduate student voraciously reading every Manchester food guide I could get my hands on, it was somewhere I always dreamed of visiting.
Not just for its deep velvet booths and impressively huge, sparkling chandeliers (well, not for that at all, if I’m honest, although they certainly do look stunning), but to experience eating at one of the city’s most famous fine dining restaurants.
It only took me fourteen years to get there – and now that I have been, I am not going to shut up about it.
Newcomers like Climat, Higher Ground, and The Sparrows all deserve the praise they get, and I am among those quick to write them a glowing review. Still, if you ask me, Adam Reid at The French could do with being showered in quite a bit more, so here I am with my sprinkler. Please indulge me.
For those who don’t know the history of The French, in 1974 it made history as the first Manchester restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.
Back then, it was Chef Gilbert Lefevre at the helm and it really did what it said on the tin – serving opulent plates of escargots, foie gras, and caviar, even committing right down to the menu itself, half of which was printed en français.
The restaurant retained its star for three years, before losing it in 1977, and would go on to have some ups and downs before coming under the stewardship of Simon Rogan in 2013, with its now-Chef Patron Adam Reid working underneath him as Head Chef.
Rogan – already then a proprietor of the Umbel group including L’Enclume, Fera at Claridge’s, and Rogan & Co – famously ended his five-year contract with the hotel two years early after failing to get a Michelin star.
That same year, local lad Adam took on the top dog role and in 2017 re-positioned the offering to reflect his own style – essentially making everything more relaxed.
He dropped the complicated place settings, brought in music so that diners no longer feared dropping their forks, introduced a new chef station in the restaurant, and revised the menu to pay homage to his Lancashire roots.
As the years have gone on, every year we foodies have wondered – would this be the year that Reid, and the restaurant, is finally given Michelin recognition?
Sadly, so far, that has not happened – but, star or not, after dining there last week it does seem something of a travesty that more people aren’t going on about how brilliant the food is here. And the service, for that matter.
Some things have changed at the restaurant again recently. Since February, the kitchen has been headed up by Reid’s new Head Chef Blaise Murphy – another one with an impressive CV that spans some of the best restaurants in the North West.
Having started his career here at seventeen, Blaise has come full circle after two years at Ormskirk’s Moor Hall, and another three with Simon Martin at Mana – aka the Ancoats chef notorious for giving Manchester its first star since the early days of The French.
Returning to the place where it all began, he has spent the past few months working under Reid to devise a refreshed offering packed full of down-to-earth Northern flavours – and their 11-course tasting menu can undoubtedly give Manchester’s trendier newcomers a run for their money.
Think dishes inspired by picky teas, miniature cheese and onion pies, and steaming cups of beef tea served alongside Pollen ‘French malt’ bread and thick pats of beefy butter. Pretentious? Definitely not.
There are also ideas, Blaise tells me, to hopefully host some collaborative pop-up supper clubs in the future, saying: “I’d love to do something with Flawd or Higher Ground.”
Between him and Adam, they are reinventing things once again, and the result is absolutely glorious. Where else, I wonder, can you listen to Supersonic and munch a squid ink cracker topped with whipped roe and pickled red pepper that tastes like a mouthful of patatas bravas?
Other highlights include ‘Yesterday’s dinner’ – made up of two deceptively simple-sounding plates using house-cured cold cuts that, in fact, require hours of preparation behind the scenes, starting with the in-house butchery of whole pork legs, and the filleting and gentle smoking of huge sides of salmon over branches of juniper and applewood.
Plated at the table, these feel special, like a childhood memory on a plate – the Loch Duart salmon served first with pine creme fraiche, chives and homemade dill pickled cucumbers.
Up next, the ham – perhaps the highlight of the night – with shavings of fresh black truffle, wholegrain mustard, homemade Henderson’s relish, and rested egg yolk in a sharp, rich chicken broth first debuted by Adam on the Great British Menu.
Once we get to the bottom we’re instructed to ‘drink it like a ramen broth’, and chuckle as the chef serving it at our table just can’t help but make a joke about Wagamamas as he departs.
Paired with a mixture of low-intervention wines, craft beers, and sakes all carefully selected and served by the ever-friendly Restaurant Manager Karina Kanepe and Assistant Restaurant Manager Alessandra Assuncaodossantos, it’s a magical evening.
In fact, the experience is so far from the stuffy posh hotel restaurant reputation it seems, so unfairly, to have acquired that I almost have to laugh at myself for buying into it.
This is now a place where “it’s more about what’s on the plate than your feet”, Adam tells me. Finally, both I and my trainers can feel at home.
You can now go on a wine tour around Manchester city centre
We’ve had pub crawls, lockdown gin tin walks – and now there’s an organised wine tour you can do around Manchester.
A new series of events, simply titled Manchester Wine Tours, will whisk guests around town sampling some of the city’s very best bars and pubs.
The leisurely three-hour tours will showcase the best places to buy and drink wine around our city, with plenty of plonk to drink on the way round.
Launched by local food and drink writer and WSET-qualified wine expert Kelly Bishop, the Manchester Wine Tours will feature Manchester bars, restaurants, pubs and wine shops specially chosen by Kelly.
She’ll be picking places with an interesting range of bottles, and that are true local favourites.
These ‘posh pub crawls’ will give people the chance to try something new, learn a little about wine, and discover a new favourite boozer.
And Kelly is promising to keep them accessible to everyone from total wine beginners to long-term enthusiasts.
Each tour will cost £75 per person and will include a guided tour around Manchester city centre, six small glasses of wine and a series of wine-matched snacks at four different places.
Along the way, Kelly will also be on hand to point out local points of interest and things you might not already know about the city.
On this wine tasting ‘with legs’, guests will have the opportunity to learn about wine in a relaxed, fun, sociable and informal way.
Kelly Bishop said: “I started Manchester Wine Tours to celebrate the incredible wine offering in Manchester. Manchester is known for great restaurants and bars selling nationally celebrated craft beer and cocktails, but there is a really impressive wine scene here too.
“I’m passionate about wine and am really excited to share my knowledge and enthusiasm with locals and tourists alike.
“I want to show people that although this might be classed as a ‘high-end activity’ with really good quality wine and matching snacks, wine tasting definitely doesn’t have to be snobby or stuffy. I want it to appeal to anyone over 18 who is interested in wine and introduce them to some of my favourite wine spots in Manchester.”
Tours will start in October 2023 with the first events on Sunday 22 and Sunday 29 October (3pm-6pm). From November onwards, tours will be every Wednesday evening (7pm-10pm) and Sunday afternoon (3pm-6pm).
There will also be four special Christmas tours on 10, 13, 17 and 20 December. These are £100pp and will feature extra special wines and festive snacks.
Manchester City’s Matheus Nunes rolls back the years and goes to work at Flat Baker in Ancoats
Manchester City star Matheus Nunes has already impressed many during his short time at the Etihad so far, but he impressed a few more this weekend not with his skills on the pitch but in the kitchen after moonlighting at a popular Manchester bakery, The Flat Baker in Ancoats.
The recent Man City signing might only have the one assist to his name during his time as a Blue thus far, but he’s served up more than a baker’s dozen to local Manc residents thanks to a quick shift as a pastry chef this past weekend.
However, it was by no means his first time in the kitchen, as Nunes revealed that he used to work in a bakery during the earlier days of his footballing career.
Getting put to work on one of The Flat Baker‘s bestsellers, their unbelievably addictive pastel de natas — trust us, they’re utterly sinful these things — the bakery’s owners Débora and her husband, also called Matheus, got the City star back up to speed. You can see the full video here:
That being said, as you can see, the 25-year-old midfielder was a bit of a dab hand after a few goes at it; the fact he not only had prior experience but also shares the same heritage as the bakery’s founders no doubt helped.
Born in Brazil but raised in Portugal — two places where these unmistakable sweet treats are most famous — Nunes explained how he, his mother and English step-father moved to Europe for “a better life” and to help his chances of becoming a footballer.
The former Wolves player went on to explain how he “failed a lot in school” and eventually his mum gave him a choice: “give up football or school, in order to start working”.
Starting out in his godfather’s bakery, he went on to spend a fair bit of time making bread and pastries and even appeared in a similar video back in Portugal after signing for Sporting Lisbon.
Naturally, the trio did eventually touch on football a little bit, with Nunes discussing what it’s like to play under Pep Guardiola and how nice it’s been to arrive at a club where there are plenty of Portuguese-speaking players like Ederson, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva and others.
Débora also joked about how he has fared getting used to ‘Rainchester’ and he was polite enough to smile it off and simply reiterated that playing for City was oppurtunity he culdn’t pass up.
So, if things don’t work out in the Premier League, he can always swap the sky blue shirt of city for a lovely chef’s apron and help out over at The Flat Baker.