The French, The Midland, Peter Street, Manchester

Simon Rogan sprinkles a little of his magic on Manchester's Midland hotel

It was the ox that got me. It was the ox that made me really, honestly, genuinely get misty eyed with happiness. I realised I was ruined. No matter how many times I would try to search out its equal, I would never be successful. I photographed it so that every now and then I could call up the picture to gaze upon; to try and summon up the taste again.

But I should start at the beginning.

One of the first really good restaurants I reviewed was Roganic, a temporary London offshoot of the Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cumbria. Its chef-patron, Simon Rogan had brought his seasonal, local, ‘let’s worship at the shrine of the potato’ cuisine to town and it was lovely. Ever since, I’ve wanted to go north to Roganville (actually Cartmel).

But now I don’t need to go that far, because in his latest venture Rogan – now with a second Michelin star and a legion of new fans thanks to a winning appearance on last year’s Great British Menu – has taken over the restaurant at Manchester’s Midland hotel.

It's not as mad as it sounds, this proponent of farm-to-plate dining setting up shop in the city. It’s an hour from Rogan HQ, allowing both staff and produce to shuttle easily. The hotel, established in 1903, has a fine-dining history – it received a Michelin star in the very first guide (in 1974).

It is a delightful room. What might have been an unholy marriage is instead a bit of a romance. Two glittering globe-shaped modern chandeliers are at once blingy and bohemian, and the mirrored panelling serves to make the oval room feel airy. Funnest of all is a carpet made to resemble broad oak floorboards. It is the softening touch that marries the austere Scandinavian furniture (a Rogan trademark) and the plushness of the setting.

And the food? There are ten courses (and four unbilled dishes) on the menu. This costs £79 and is Money Well Spent.

Set aside an entire evening and what you’d spend on two average meals elsewhere and your reward is a deftly presented, well paced array of memorable dishes.

Before we even get to the menu proper, a collection of extraordinary canapés: a parsnip crisp with pork fat and smoke eel; a small bowl of an extraordinarily rich and quite challenging black pudding mousse; a wooden tray of black pebbles on which are two pickle-poached mussels on the half shell (the wheeze being that the shells themselves are edible); two little dock puddings – crisp little fried balls of creamy dock leaf (who knew?!) with a tang of salt and vinegar; and two tall sticks set within sand in a small shot glass. This is faux sand, and tastes – in a very good way – like the crumbs in the bottom of a packet of cheese and onion crisps (crisps made by a Michelin-starred chef). The sticks are edible seaweed, in flavour, if not material.

So, already a little blind-sided, we take a breath and a look around. The room is full, the customers those keen to get in at the start of what will be the star of Manchester’s dining scene. Oh, and a table of hotel guests with a baby. Never too young to start on fine dining, I suppose.

One can only imagine the scene if word got out in certain other high-falutin’ establishments that someone had ordered a pina colada with their ‘fresh crab and caramelised cabbage, horseradish, chicken skin with crow garlic’. Here, the atmosphere is relaxed, accommodating rather than stridently 'foodie'.

There’s something refreshing about a room full of people just experiencing this, rather than Instagramming and live-blogging it. And staff explaining, only if it’s wanted, what each dish is and what’s in it.

Me, I like to know what’s what and the keen young waiter – one of a handful transferred from L'Enclume – has explanations just the right side of jaunty.

Like we quickly are, he’s a fan of the chestnut bread, Manchester ale roll and pillow-soft baguette that arrive next. Then, after an intense clam dish with egg yolk, clam foam, toasty oats and sea herbs, he beams with pride delivering light as a feather truffle dumplings in a broth with an impossibly intense artichoke flavour. If it hadn’t been fatally appropriated by Gregg Wallace, I’d broadcast a loud “corrrr”.

‘Early spring offerings’ is a plate of delightful vegetables with herbs and flowers, and a salt flavoured with lovage that sing out their freshness and the love with which they were prepared; simple, yes, but plain? Not at all.

A Rogan favourite – hogget - is a meltingly soft tranche with a crisp sweetbread, a cloud of frothed sheeps milk and wilted ramsons. On the point of wilting myself, from sensory overload, I allow Mr M my next dish, Reg’s duck with mustard and beetroot. A humble description of a galactic-looking ensemble of discs swirled with sauce.

I recover in time for the prettiest plate of all, a vivid pink ensemble of rhubarb as a crisp, poached, and in gel form, with toasted oats and a creamy ice made from sweetened marscarpone cheese. And finally, on slate (my least favourite of all serving surfaces, but oh well, if any one can…) a tender pear with buttermilk sorbet and a rye crisp.

But that ox. If I had eaten it blindfold, I would have sworn it was a world-class piece of meat that had been cooked on a barbecue but - puzzlingly - had managed to keep extraordinary tenderness. In fact, it was raw, diced and dressed in charcoal oil to give it that smokiness, and with small rounds of kohlrabi and a scattering of pumpkin seeds for crunch. An immediate entry into my lifetime top-10 dishes.

At the end of the meal, my mouth felt as if it had been on a magic carpet ride - from the richness of that black pudding to the last whisper of buttermilk. Nothing had jarred, or felt tricksy, or fiddled with. It was simply outstanding – a testament to the devotion of Rogan (at the stoves here for the time being, before he moves on to resettling Roganic in a new home and then back to a newly expanded kitchen at L’Enclume).

It’s no wonder that Kamila, his restaurant manager, takes such pride in offering diners a visit to the kitchen. ‘See the magic,’ she seems to be saying. ‘Be astounded by the humble kitchen from where gold was spun.’

Manchester is a lucky, lucky city. The gentleman at a neighbouring table was certainly celebrating. He strolled out of the dining room and fell asleep on a sofa in the lobby. Ten courses with wines matched to every course can do that to you. Or perhaps he was simply staking a claim on a table for lunch the next day. And who can blame him?

9.5/10

(SCORES: 1-3 STAY AT HOME AND COOK, 4 NEEDS HELP, 5 DOES THE JOB, 6 FLASHES OF PROMISE, 7 GOOD, 8 CAN'T WAIT TO GO BACK, 9-10 AS GOOD AS IT GETS)

The French The Midland, Peter Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 236 3333 Lunch, Wed-Sat; dinner, Tues-Sat. About £210 for two, including wine

Champions of local sourcing

Le Champignon Sauvage

24-28 Suffolk Road, Cheltenham, tel: 01242 573 449

David Everitt-Mathias's exemplary cuisine – using many lesser-known ingredients in unexpected combinations – wins adulation for this 25-year-old venture

Goods Shed

Station Road West, Canterbury, tel: 01227 459 153

Hearty dishes come in huge portions at this former railway shed, where you eat overlooking the array of produce sold below at the farmers' market

Rocpool

1 Ness Walk, Inverness, tel: 01463 717 274

Precise and complex cooking, using consistently excellent local produce, helps make this buzzy riverside brasserie a real hit

Reviews extracted from ‘Harden’s London and UK Restaurant Guides 2013’, www.hardens.com

News
i100
News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
The Prostate Cancer Foundation is returning all donations made by Redditors 'in honour' of Jennifer Lawrence and her naked photos
news

Website users raised funds after Jennifer Lawrence nude photo leak

News
Tony Blair has received a GQ award for 'Philanthropist of the Year'
people

GQ Men Of The Year Awards returned some surprising results

PROMOTED VIDEO
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
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
news

The Tardis-style house measures in at just 83 inches wide

News
advertising
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

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

    Day In a Page

    Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

    The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
    Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

    Stolen youth

    Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
    Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

    Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

    He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

    Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
    Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

    Made by Versace, designed by her children

    Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
    Anyone for pulled chicken?

    Pulling chicks

    Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
    9 best steam generator irons

    9 best steam generator irons

    To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
    England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

    New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
    ‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

    ‘We knew he was something special’

    Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York