Wednesday 19 February 2014

Fraiche – Menu Black (Valentine’s Day)

Restaurant Fraiche in Oxton on the Wirral has held a Michelin star for six consecutive years. An impressive feat made all the more remarkable when you consider that Chef Marc Wilkinson toils alone (save for a washer upperer) in the kitchen.

As a huge fan of Marc’s food, I’ve lost count of how many times my wife and I have dined at Fraiche over the years, but it’s well into double figures.

The following pictures were taken during our recent visit on Valentine’s Day. The lights were set for romance not for photography so I apologise if the pictures are not up to my usual standard, or do Marc’s food sufficient  justice.

The meal started with a series of snacks – the compulsory Spiced Pecans; a Pink Potato Espuma with indulgent Ebène Caviar; Chorizo (jelly) & Mango ‘Sandwich’ and Trout Roe with Yoghurt, Dehytradted Olive Oil & Shiso on Linseed Crisps.

Theatrically prepared at the table, the next dish consisted of the finest dice of Apple, Parsley Puree, Yoghurt, juicy cells of a Finger Lime with which slices of Hand Dived Scottish Scallop were lightly seared on a hot salt ‘stone’.

Breads: this time the first instalment of the usual bread selection (Cheese, Five Nut, Mixed Seed and Granary & Treacle) were served with an Unsalted Butter and an infused Grape Butter – personally, I was not so keen on the grape one. Truffle Butter I like but I’m beginning to conclude that perhaps ‘fruit butters’ are not for me (I was not convinced by the one at Gagnaire either – here).

The next dish, my favourite of the evening, was Artichoke Textures (puree, carpaccio, crispy skin) with rich Egg Yolk, White Port Jelly, Garlic Chive and Verjus upon which a generous shower of Périgord Truffle was added at the table. The truffle made an excellent dish, truly exceptional. 

With a touch act to follow, the next dish was, I feel, the least successful of the night’s offerings: Baked Oyster, Poached Rhubarb, Fennel Salad, Buttermilk and ‘Coal’ - it was good but did not wow as much as I’ve come to expect from Marc’s dishes.

Breads: the second wave of breads consisted of Black Olive, Mushroom, Tomato and Organic Oat.

We were back in the game with the next course, an Asian inspired translucent Shitake Jelly that cloaked ‘Piccalilli’ vegetables, Confit Cep and Cep Powder – flavours that are right up my alley, perfectly balanced.

Stepping up again, Seared Loin of ‘Sashimi Grade’ Yellow Fin Tuna with a Squid Ink Crisp, wilted Little Gem, a punchy Tomato Consommé with and extra hit of ‘Tomato Powder’.

The meat main, Best End of Black Faced Suffolk Lamb was served with Cavolo Nero, Cavolo Crisp, Braised Salsify, Roasted Shallot, Spiced Scratchings and a dubious sounding ‘Feta Gel’ which actually added a creamy indulgence and another level of seasoning… clever idea.  

Talking of creamy indulgence, the ‘cheese course’ certainly qualified. Usually I’d be mightily annoyed if Fraiche’s cheese chariot was replaced with “just a cheese course” but somehow the velvety luxury of Brillat-Savarin & Périgord Truffle on Toast made it all ok.

The theatrics returned for the first of a series of sweet snacks, “Lemon Meringue Pie” – set atop of a beautifully sharp lemon curd.

More sweet snacks ensued in the shape of Marc’s signature Sour Cherry Pannacotta, a delightful Berry Fairy Cake, tongue tingling Fizzy Grapes and Salted Caramel Chocolates.

To finish, Poached & Caramelised Pears, Lemon Sorbet with hints of Jasmine and Ginger topped with shards of Brazil Nut Tuile.

For a while now I’ve been bemoaning the lack of real top quality teas in high-end restaurants (and the fact that on the rare occasion they do have an ‘acceptable’ tea list, they are often served incorrectly). This was not the case here – in addition to the ‘normal tea list’ I selected an excellent Japanese Gyokuro Green Tea called “Kimi Ga Yo” (Ruler of the World) from the ‘premium tea list’. I’m pleased to report it was served to my particularly fussy liking.

Another excellent meal at Fraiche. Book and go.

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