by Madeleine Howell, The Telegraph, March 6, 2018
Manchester and Michelin stars don't seem to mix. The French at The Midland Hotel was the last city centre restaurant to be awarded a star, which it held from 1974 to 1977.
Now, Adam Reid, who took over the restaurant after the departure of Simon Rogan last year (following yet another Michelin snub), is abandoning the quest for Michelin stars and taking The French in a simpler, less formal direction. Following a refurbishment, his is a more relaxed menu.
That said, the restaurant did win a spot on The Good Food Guide's list of 2018's best restaurants. But according to Reid, Manchester’s food scene is still in its infancy. “There’s not a huge choice in terms of fine dining in and around Manchester,” he says. As a result, you’re most likely to find him at Lily's vegetarian Indian restaurant in Ashton, where he grew up.
“Manchester is up and coming, but it’s only recently that it’s picked up pace, with little independents focusing on quality rather than quantity and volume coming onto the scene,” he says.
Here, he picks out some of his favourite spots...
“ManCoCo, short for the Manchester Coffee Company, is a great little micro roaster and coffee shop which opened under a railway arch. The founders, Stuart Bromley and Darren Dawson, started with just a roasting machine, and now they’ve got a huge range of different blends. I buy the standard, but he has seasonal blends too to suit the time of year.
It’s great to support a growing, independent business. If I’m buying a coffee from a place where I know they know what they're doing, like MacCoCo, I’ll always have a flat white.”
84 Hewitt Street, Manchester M15 4GB; 0161 237 1916; mancococo.uk
“El Gato Negro is a really cool Spanish tapas restaurant run by Simon Shaw with a buzzy atmosphere, just how Mancunians like it. It’s in the thick of it on King Street: it’s a restaurant but feels like a bar, almost like a nightclub. It’s got a casual, relaxed vibe. You walk in and you’re straight into the feel of it. The food is great, nice and simple. It does the classics well: patatas bravas and fried prawns as well as lots of Spanish wines, sherries and amazing cocktails.”
BREAD & BUTTER
“I buy my bread from the Pollen Bakery, which only opened recently - also under a railway arch at Manchester’s Piccadilly Station. I started working with them straight away. They work primarily with sourdough and are really passionate about real bread, fermentation and flavour.
They also do incredible viennoiserie, Danish pastries and croissants. It’s not run-of-the-mill: it’s restaurant quality, and they put a lot of love and passion into it. They’re out to produce the best they can, not to make a fast buck.”
“There’s a place called the Woolyknit Café near Oldham, in a village called Diggle where I’m from. It’s run by a couple who sell wool and jumpers, but it’s also a cafe done well: they do a great full English with great produce, and they buy really good sausages and bacon.
There’s maple glazed ham and cheese rarebit, and a brilliant homemade Lancashire cheese and onion pie with beans, mushy peas or salad. It’s like how my mum would make it. It’s quirky and it’s rammed all the time. It’s a lovely bit of the country, with nice walks near the Standedge Tunnel.”
"We have a huge Chinatown in Manchester. My favourite place to eat there is a little Thai cafe called Siam Smiles, which is in a supermarket. You sit on one side of a curtain and the chef cooks stir fries behind it with a wok. It’s an unusual experience.
There’s also a Japanese-style restaurant called Yuzu with great sashimi, big bowls of sticky rice and raw fish, shellfish broth and dumplings. Another one that everybody knows about and loves is Umezushi, which is great for a longer evening meal."
You can read the full Telegraph review of The Midland Hotel here