Faced with some rather large shoes to fill, Adam Reid has taken inspiration from his childhood and the local area to create a unique offering. Katherine Alano reports
Since taking over the reigns of the French at the Midland hotel from Simon Rogan in November 2016, chef-patron Adam Reid has been successfully putting his own stamp on this Manchester restaurant.
Over the past two years, the former Acorn winner has created a buzz around the restaurant where he serves his own style of modern British food. This year alone it received four AA rosettes in the AA Restaurant Guide 2019, ranked number 13 in the Waitrose Good Food Guide 2019 with a score of 8/10. Reid most recently picked up the award for Leading Chef of the Year 2018 at the This is Manchester Awards.
Following a £100,000 makeover, the emphasis is now more about creating a restaurant to attract local and destination diners.
“Every part of the operation has been brought in line with the personality I want the restaurant to have as a whole,” explains Reid. “Essentially, I want it to reflect my personality.
“We aim to keep all the quality that you would expect from a restaurant of this standard. However, we don’t want any of the formality. It has to be a relaxed dining experience.”
Reid offers three set menus at four (£45), six (£65) or eight courses (£85), which are, in true northern style, quite substantial. The menu is reflective of Reid’s 18 months of working on his own food style, which he describes as “modern British cooking with a northern accent”.
“I don’t want to cook anyone else’s food. I’ve been spending the last 18 months making my restaurant. It’s called Adam Reid at the French, so I think you should see Adam Reid when you walk through the door,” he explains.
Core to Reid’s ethos is finding the best ingredients he can, and cooking them in the way he feels is right. Since taking over the restaurant, this style has gravitated towards food from his childhood.
“The local trade accounts for two-thirds of the business, so it’s a massive thing to connect with the local people,” Reid says.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that one of Reid’s signature dishes is ‘tater ‘ash’ – a traditional Lancashire dish, which Reid likens to corned beef hash, only made with minced beef.
“Before going to school, your mum would put some minced beef, potatoes and onions in a pot with some water and a stock cube, stick a lid on and cook it for six hours while you were at school,” he recalls.
Keen for it to be seen as more than a “quirky Northern” dish, it has had several incarnations before the one that is now on the menu. Far from the traditional tater ‘ash, Reid uses seven-week aged loin of Shorthorn beef from Lake District Farmers, which is diced raw, dressed in coal oil and seasoned with smoked salt and Tabasco, before being mixed with confit vegetables (a mixture of traditional root vegetables, including swede, carrots and celeriac). This is added to diced potatoes that have been cooked in dripping, along with raw shallots and celery. It is served with mushroom catsup – a historic recipe for ketchup – which Reid developed while working with Simon Rogan.
“It’s essentially mushroom juice flavoured with old English spices, like mace with sherry vinegar and madeira. I cook it down with dates and tamarind. It’s a nod to HP – traditionally you’d have your tater ‘ash with ketchup or HP.”
Tater ‘ash is not complete without bread and butter, which Reid serves with malted sourdough. In order to maintain consistency, Reid works with local bakery Pollen, which makes a batch for him twice a week using his personal five-year-old recipe.
Other notable dishes on the menu are fried oyster with cauliflower, bacon and chives; and hake baked in mushroom butter with green sauce and caper.
Desserts are equally refined, with complex sugarwork used to produce his winning Great British Menu dish Golden Empire, which is available as a supplement (£20). The first dessert on the nine-course menu is the ‘Easy peeler’ of sea buckthorn sorbet and white chocolate – a refreshing pudding to follow the Baron Bigod crumpet, Armagnac prunes and walnuts.
Menu changes are largely dependent on the availability of ingredients, but Reid prefers for the dish to be right rather than changing for the sake of changing.
“Ultimately, it is all about flavour. That’s the true test of a good dish,” he says.
From the menu
• Whipped cod’s roe on squid ink crackers
• Cornish squid, smoked yolk, onion broth
• Tater ‘ash with mushroom catsup and bread and butter
• Tunworth cheese and broccoli custard with truffle and offal
• Cod baked in mushroom butter, green sauce and capers
• Cumbrian red deer, pickled quince, trompettes and bilberries
• Baron Bigod crumpet, Armagnac prunes and walnut
• Easy peeler of sea buckthorn sorbet and white chocolate
• Treacle tart, ginger biscuit and clotted cream ice-cream
Four-course set menu, £45
Six-course set menu, £65
Nine-course set menu, £90
Wine flight £30/£60/£75