Thursday 14 March 2013

The French by Simon Rogan, Manchester

WARNING: This post makes use of groanworthy footballing puns, tenuous links and some completely fictitious ‘facts’. If you do decide to read on, please be mindful that much of the information below makes about as much sense as Alan Hanson.

There are lots of reviews and blog posts about The French by Simon Rogan at The Midland Hotel in Manchester so unless you really have nothing better to do, I suggest you do what I do with footy match reports… just scroll down, have a gander at the pictures and check the final score.

Red or blue, when it comes to ‘the beautiful game’, Manchester is undoubtedly one of the top cities in the world. When it comes to food other great footballing cities such as London, Milan and Barcelona are altogether in another league.

But this, it seems, is set to change.

Manchester may not have Messi but we have just acquired something equally neat.

Paris SG have snapped up one of United’s favourite sons in David Beckham but The French at The Midland Hotel have made a smart move and signed Rogan.

Despite having hair similar to Zidane’s, he may not be all that quick down the wing but if you get the chance to observe him on the pass, you’ll soon realise that in the culinary field, Simon Rogan is world class.

Enough pre match ‘entertainment’ – let’s get the game underway with menu descriptions (in bold) as well as my bizarre parings of the eleven courses with some of the city’s finest footballists to create Simon Rogan’s Manchester Dream Team.

Director of Football / Boss Chef Simon Rogan
Head Coach / Head Chef – Chef Adam Reid
In charge of growing young talent / veggies – Chef Dan Cox

Reminding me of United’s Japanese maestro, Shinji Kagawa, the main menu kicked off with a direct umami kick - Artichoke broth with truffle dumplings, bacon, radish & hazelnut. The broth, poured theatrically at the table from a dinky glass teacup, was insanely good with hat trick of bacon, radish and hazelnut, added for seasoning and texture; the truffle dumplings a cause for celebration.

At right back, fans’ favourite Pablo Zabaleta with Ox in coal oil, pumpkin seed, kohlrabi & sunflower shoots – this flawless dish is sure to become a favourite with fans of The French. When I ate this dish at the preview (see here) it did not wow in the quite same way as the similar dish at L’Enclume (here) but on this occasion it certainly scored!

In the centre of defence, fellow Manchester restaurateur Rio Ferdinand with Fresh crab and caramelised cabbage, horseradish, chicken skin & crow garlic. Rio has won a few awards in his time but when it comes to the race to restore Michelin stars to Manchester, I think Simon Rogan definitely has the edge over Rio’s Rosso restaurant. The chicken skin is a masterstroke.

Sergio Agüero with Early spring offerings, vegetables, herbs and flowers & lovage salt. On both of my visits to the new French, this was my favourite course - young and fresh with a spring in its step. Featuring no less than 32 ingredients and a similar amount of processes this dish is both balanced and creative. No two bites are the same… just thinking about it makes be dribble.

David Silva with a reinvention of a L’Enclume classic Razor role reversal, eggs, dill, celeriac & sea herbs. You may be more used to ‘ham and eggs’ than the left field combination of ‘clam and egg’ but I love the humour in this richly delicious dish. It shows that The French has moved on – it no longer takes itself too seriously (some of the staff inherited front of house staff need to take note of this and follow the lead from the excellent staff Simon has brought in from L’Enclume.)

Midway through the menu, a dish with leeks on it has to be linked to the Welsh Wizard, Ryan Giggs - Sole fillet with onions, smoked scallops, parsley & leeks. A dish all about lightness and balance - the lemon sole was perfection and the scallops had the subtlest of smokes.

Interesting fact: The French was founded in 1903 - coincidentally the same year that Giggsy made his debut for the United (a year after they changed their name from Newton Heath LYR.)

A hearty Hogget dish cooked from the heart has to be paired with, Joe Hart - you know you'll be in safe hands eating this: Yew Tree Farm Herdwick Hogget and sweetbreads, wild garlic & sheep’s milk.

Studded Cumbrian Rose veal, Blewitts, split pea, sorrel & beetroot - Patrice Evra is, of course, French and ‘veal’ is popular in French cuisine. The ‘rose veal’ however is very British - an important thing to note about ‘The French’ is that it’s no longer, erm, well… French.

Their website (here) informs, ‘A large proportion of our ingredients are grown on one our own personal farms, located throughout the North of England. Organic, hand-picked produce is complemented by ingredients from our carefully-chosen suppliers across the UK – giving us complete control over every element of our menu. (I particularly loved the mustard seeds made with chicken stock that have a slight fermented flavour – très magnifique.)

Judas Iscariot, Jude the Apostle or St Jude is more commonly known simply as Judas. Since his controversial transfer across the city, Carloz Tevez is also known as Judas. The optional cheese course St Jude and butternut, chives & walnuts made use of a delicious fresh, young St Jude cheese paired with crunchy pieces of butternut squash that some may also consider a little controversial – I loved it; the salty cracker lifting the flavours magnificently.

City Captain, Vincent Kompany also captains Belgium (a country that brews Strongbow Jacques and Stella Artois Cidre). I’m pretty certain that neither of these ciders were used in the creation of the first dessert course, Sweet cheese with rhubarb, toasted oats & mulled cider – a beautiful dessert.

The final course, one of simplicity and beauty, was Robin van Pearsie’s Pear, meadow sweet and rye, buttermilk & linseeds (served with a giant ‘cornflake’). The ‘linseed popcorn’ added a sweet nutty flavour and great texture.  

On the bench:
Keeping things British with our sparkling wines, a glass of Balfor Rosé Hush Heath and a bottle of Nyetimber Classic Cuvee.

Amuse bouche: Crispy onion bread with smoked eel, fried potato, onion seeds & onion ashes; and an amazing pot of Cumberland Sauce with Black Pudding, fennel, apple and sea lettuce crisp.

Breads:  Chestnut Bread; Rye Baguette and Wholemeal with local Thunderholt Ale; Sass ‘n’ Soda: Sarsaparilla shot, sarsaparilla meringue, parfait and gelée. Coffee & Petit Fours.

You can tell I am a fan (although I’ll probably stop short of buying myself a replica chefs kit with Rogan on the back); I may just enquire if they do season tickets. 

Final Score: 11-0 A huge win for Manchester!

The French by Simon Rogan on Urbanspoon


  1. Well for a start , your footballing Gobbledygook may as well have been in Cantonese as ive never watched a football match in my life so it was pure alien i looked at the photos. WOW WOW WOW.... Totally different than the preview meal i had days before , so much more refined , Northern perfectly sized portions and very well taken pics. I`m drooling and just gonna have to go back again for more.
    I would like to see the Lenclume "white , wholemeal and pumpernickel" as a standard throughout all of Rogans restaurants.
    Love the classics making a need to experience "cubes from land and sea"
    "Back of the net" Hungry hoss (if thats a footballing term )

  2. Have been enjoying your blog while preparing a weekend in Manchester. Do you prefer the Manchester House or the French?

    1. Both are great in different ways but it's gotta be The French for me.


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