IT’S a year since The Midland Hotel’s flagship restaurant was successfully repositioned as Adam Reid at The French following the departure of Simon Rogan. Under the radar during all this went Rogan’s stylishly workaday second string across the foyer.
It has taken a while but Mr Cooper’s, a gorgeous haven of a bar, has of late been tinkering with its food offering, following the well-worn path of small plates (though some larger plates and grills are also on offer).
All this has been accompanied by the rhetoric of relaunch with its website introducing us to ‘The Original Modern Mr Cooper’s’ – all a bit Chop Housey – and trumpeting: “The new taste of Mr Cooper’s, a modern dining experience for the growing generation of excited people who find food part of the canvas of their life, food to be enjoyed whenever and however they want. Quirky, imaginative dishes inspired by the story of Mr Cooper himself using colourful flavours whilst utilising home-grown, seasonal favourites. The food is fresh and without fuss, designed to be shared and enjoyed all day in a relaxed setting.
“Food that becomes the conversation, flavours from marketplaces afar brought back to Manchester to delight the senses. Cumin, chilli oil, coconut and thyme bring alive the simple cuisine.”
All a bit random and unfocused, I think you’ll agree. The first three of the aforementioned ingredients probably never crossed the lips of the eponymous Mr Cooper, who was a market gardener on the site in the early 19th century. Hence the homage of greenery in the restaurant, including a contender for the city’s Best Tree in a Dining Space’ (see Tattu, Sakana etc).
It pales in comparison to the spectacular Winter Garden at The Refuge, which coincidentally has set the small plate template for hotel dining in these parts. How do the Cooper’s dishes stand up? A mixed bag really. We ordered a selection but the one large plate we couldn’t resist was the pick of the meal. Braised beef cheek with mash, salt-baked beetroot and bone marrow jus (£16) was superb rib-tickling stuff, as good as another ‘main’ enjoyed on an earlier visit, whole roasted lemon sole with chorizo and caper butter (£13).
Our selection of small plates, at prices ranging from £4 to £6, veered from fresh and sharp (gin-cured salmon with fennel and grapefruit) to stodgy (pulled pork and apple croquettes) and dull (spiced calamari, squid ink mayonnaise) via decent Ottolenghi staple (smoked aubergine with tahini and pomegranate) and decent pan-fried chorizo with aioli. Other fried titbits laid on the promised spice on a menu that ultimately is trying to tick too many boxes.
And that is the story across the city’s hotels with the exception of the improving Lowry and, of course, on another level, Mr Reid’s establishment across the foyer.
Mr Cooper’s, The Midland Hotel, Peter Street, Manchester, M60 2DS. 0161 235 4781.