According to Chiara Petracca, Consul of Italy in Manchester, this is one of the best restaurants in town. She didnât need to persuade us to come. Our dinner for four at âThe Frenchâ? at The Midland Hotel was doubtless la crÃ¨me de la crÃ¨me.
Named after the American cotton traders who used to meet regularly at the hotel calling themselves the âOld Colony Clubâ, here the clock stopped two centuries ago. Soothing piano notes and a high glass ceiling welcomed us to one of the most luxurious lounge areas Iâve ever seen.
Comfortably sat on velvet couches, curiously matching our wooded menus, we had time to make our orders â while sipping from a glass of golden silky Italian Pinot Grigio.
We opted for the Gastronomique Menu, three courses for Â£25 per person. But attentive Italian Maitre dâHotel Bruno Lucchi made us indulge our appetite, serving us a complementary cup of asparagus soup to start. Warm and slightly peppery, every spoon satisfied the palate, as did the selection of eight different types of bread served from an elegant trolley, table after table.
We continued with Poached organic salmon salad and Pressing of ham hock with shallot puree and pickled mushrooms. Two starters served cold, in large white plates, rectangular for the salmon and round for the ham.
The sliced salmon fillet was cooked simply and seasoned with watercress, capers and boiled quail eggs. Delicious. The ham, soft and gently spicy, balanced the sweetness of the shallots and the fine texture of the vinegary mushrooms. A thin crunchy slice of crouton ciabatta on the top of the ham hock was the final touch to a wonderful dish.
Before the mains, we were offered a bowl of Vichyssois soup. Served cold with some truffle oil, it was creamy and rich.
The Pan roasted Goosnargh duck with cabbage and carrot puree and the Steamed fillet of sea bass with chorizo risotto, confit of red peppers and Tapenade were two other works of art, finely executed and presented. The duck meat was pink and succulent and the tower-shaped puree delicate and light. The sea bass fillet, perfectly cooked, was laid on a bed of risotto, enriched with spicy chorizo nuggets. Red and yellow peppers, toasted fennel and a spoon of black olive Tapenade on the top of the fish added some colourful shades.
To equalize the opulence of the octagon lounge where we were dining â crystal chandeliers, mirror walls and silver cutlery â we chose as dessert sensual Poached strawberries with strawberry ice-ream and indulging Coffee cream with milk foam and homemade Eccles cake.
The warm and sugary strawberries came with a biscuit wafer-spoon holding the strawberry ice-cream and the coffee cream was like a dense cappuccino cup with a trickling flavour.
The final espresso arrived with a selection of chocolates served on a sinful silver tree.
Upon stepping out of The French, Manchester was different but still the same. Au revoir past, au revoir âOld Colony Clubâ.
The French Restaurant
The Midland Hotel
0161 236 3333
Tue-Thu 7pm-10.30pm; Fri-Sat 7pm-11pm