It may be an elegant setting but Adam Reid’s menu is “down to earth” with simple, honest cooking.
An experience. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for when eating out? Something that creates a memory, which in turn stirs an emotion. A feeling of happiness, contentment, of joy. Let me take you back to my night at Adam Reid at The French…
Wow: the first word that came to mind as I walked beneath a black, draped curtain and through the imposing doors of The French. It’s not very often that a restaurant has such an impact.
De rigueur food trends mean there are a lot of hipster-style restaurants, but Adam Reid at The French has a dazzling charm. Two spherical chandeliers hang from the ceiling and the grey-blue hues create a moody atmosphere. This is laidback luxe.
You’d think with this setting you’d hear the elegant sounds of Mozart’s Symphony No. 41 but Adam clashes his own Indie playlist against the romantic backdrop of the restaurant – and oddly, it works.
Adam joined The French, in Manchester’s The Midland Hotel, as head chef in 2013 – when Simon Rogan took on the management contract and re-positioned the restaurant.
“Simon was originally opening the brasserie in the hotel, but after he ate The French he said, ‘good luck with that because what we do in the brasserie will be far better,” Adam tells me.
That, of course, would have been a little embarrassing so the decision was made for Simon to take on The French – the last city centre restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in 1974.
Although Simon – who owns the two-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel – was brought on board to help the venue reclaim its star, it never happened, and in 2016 he left to concentrate on his other restaurants, leaving Adam in charge.
The chef, who’d achieved 4 AA rosettes at The French – before going on to win BBC’s Great British Menu competition with his signature dish, Golden Empire – was ready to step up to the plate.
“My style of cooking is simple and straightforward, with rounded flavours. I grew up eating dishes such as cheese and leek pie in Lancashire and I’ll put things on the menu that are reminiscent of my past,” says the 35 year old.
His version is served as a trio of amuse bouche: ‘Lancashire Tasty’, onion and eel pie; dripping toast with grated tongue; and whipped cod’s roe with a squid ink cracker.
My friend, who owns a restaurant with rooms, and I completely disagree on which packs the most punch. She opts for the tongue, I fall for the pie.
“I’m trying to get who I am on the plate. It’s my name above the door, so the style has to represent me. I had to do a lot of soul-searching, work out what I really enjoyed cooking, what people would enjoy eating.
“You can only excel in something you enjoy doing. My personality is 50 per cent of the plate,” says Adam.
Tater ‘ash with mushroom catsup, bread and butter is Adam’s take on Lancashire comfort food. His tasting menu also features Tunworth and potato, truffle, broccoli and offal, veal sweetbread, brill baked in beef butter and salt-aged duck with purple beetroot and picked elderberry.
“The place may look posh but we’re down to earth. The food is honest and simple.”
Adam’s also passionate about “engaging the kitchen with the dining room”, so he installed a chef’s counter where guests can watch his brigade plate up.
He also personally serves his guests the first dish and he stands at our table with plates that feature seared scallop with trout roe cured in lime juice and pours a beef and onion broth over the top.
“I say it’s beef and onion, it’s more like a roasted onion, a burnt onion broth. We put a bit of beef in it as it wouldn’t be French without it,” he tells us, while then grating fresh horseradish over the top.
It adds a bit of theatre to the meal, but more importantly – you get to see chef at your table. It’s a personal touch and the smile on Adam’s face while talking to us only solidifies his passion.
He’s human, and he admits: “I couldn’t do it all without the support of my wife, Natalie,” says Adam, who has a four-year son, Henry and the couple are expecting their second child in August. “After a hard day, you just sometimes need a hug.”
Adam Reid at The French offer three menus: Four (£45), Six (£65) and Nine (£85) – all of which are tasting menus.
His Golden Empire Dish – which saw him crowned winner of Great British Menu, is an additional £20. Wine pairing is also available.