Mr Cooper's House and Garden: Restaurant review - the Midland hotel has been reborn as Simon Rogan's Gourmetghast


For a talented chef, there are many routes to stardom. Television is the quickest, if not necessarily the easiest. A documentary a few years back featured the strivings of Aiden Byrne, ex of The Dorchester, to boost his TV profile. I'm afraid that flash of Byrne's galvanised-steel ambition was enough to put me off ever going to one of his restaurants again. Shame, because by all accounts, his latest, Manchester House, is wonderful.

A film crew has been following Byrne and another relatively new arrival in Manchester, Simon Rogan, for a forthcoming BBC2 series with the working title Restaurant Wars. I'm sure they're both thrilled with that name; after all, one of the UK's biggest cities only has room for one Michelin-starred restaurant, right?

Rogan built his stellar reputation at L'Enclume long before the telly bods came calling. His "journey" – as the voiceover will no doubt put it – from the Lake District village of Cartmel to Claridge's, where he's due to take over the restaurant from Gordon Ramsay later this year, shows what can happen when talent and determination are the drivers of a career, rather than TV exposure.

His "if you build it, they will come" philosophy is now being tested in Manchester, where Rogan recently took over the restaurant operations at the venerable old Midland. An enormous railway hotel left behind when they moved the station, like a Victorian Gothic version of Bates Motel, the Midland has been reborn as Rogan's Gourmetghast.

His first restaurant there, The French, opened last spring, going to the top of every Manchester foodie's to-do list. It's now been joined by a second, more casual, restaurant, Mr Cooper's House and Garden, which opened in September.

The twee name honours the city father who once lived on this spot, and is reflected in the indoors/outdoors design, which grafts a leather-bound, gentlemen's club-ish bar on to a larger expanse of pale wood and greenery. It's an odd space, like the café at an upmarket garden centre. As pale as porridge, all ecru and eau de nil, it's punctuated by random outbreaks of garden ephemera – watering cans, bird houses and parasols. Our table was beneath a huge tree, complete with fake leaves. It's Narnia with a wine list.

Quite how Rogan's playful, experimental style, fusing avant-garde techniques with hyper-local ingredients, accommodates to the demands of a 150-cover hotel dining room is answered by a lengthy menu which is distinctly nonconformist, and more international than we've seen from him before: Mexican gazpacho, wasabi and avocado; chipotle polenta with hot smoked salmon; roasted teriyaki tofu steak. Anyone expecting retro pleasures in the style of Heston Blumenthal's Dinner will be bamboozled by a list owing more to Google Earth than Mrs Beeton.

The food is inevitably simpler than at the fine-dining French, but it's still remarkably sophisticated for the prices (starters are mainly £4-£6.50, mains around £16). It also presents challenges.

But let's begin with the hits. A starter of beef meatballs, wonderfully light and garnished with foamed tzatziki and pitta croutons, offered a wallop of big, robust, flavours, like all your Greek holidays come at once. The truffle pudding – a dense, eggy brioche heady with truffle oil – which came with the Cumbrian rib-steak was sinfully seductive. And we admired a rhubarb dessert which paired sharp granita and syrup-poached fruit with a baked custard flavoured with meadowsweet.

Now for the 'Marmite' dishes. A starter layering a loose terrine of pork belly and smoked eel on a rye crumb base under a parfait-like layer of cream cheese looked disconcertingly like cheesecake, and arguably fell on the anaemic side of subtle. A dish of gorgonzola-stuffed red peppers and flaked salt cod floated in an otiose hollandaise. Both dishes left my guest and me uncertain (he's in charge of University Challenge, but luckily didn't insist on not conferring about starters).

The dish I most enjoyed was also the one I can imagine horrifying many: a Turkish Delight-inspired syllabub served with honeyed flapjack which was overpoweringly flavoured with rosewater. I love Turkish Delight, but, like truffle oil, it divides tastes, and only a bold kitchen would push the point to this extent. Lunch lingered on in my olfactory system long after I'd left Manchester.

Rarely do I go away from a restaurant genuinely undecided as to whether I've liked it. But that was the case with Mr Cooper's. It's also hard to say who the room is designed for – a group of businessmen looked decidedly out of place under their garden parasol. But at around £50 a head for three courses, it's a relatively accessible way of sampling the ideas of one of our brightest talents. One thing is clear, Rogan doesn't do bland. When he and his team hit Claridge's later this year, it promises to be quite a show.

Food ****
Ambience ***
Service ****

The Midland Hotel, Peter Street Manchester (0161 932 4128). Around £50 per head including wine and service

Suggested Topics
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone