Saturday, 15 February 2014

Mr Cooper's House - Manchester

Of the Simon Rogan restaurants i've visited (L'Enclume, The French and Rogan & Company) Mr Cooper's House is my favourite. Feels good to have that off my chest early. I thoroughly enjoyed The French and despite an odd first visit to L'Enclume can understand why it rates so highly with critics, it was an immensely enjoyable meal.

More often than not when eating out i'm in the mood for a well stacked cocktail list and imaginative a la carte menu and Mr Cooper's House fits this bill perfectly.
A lot of the restaurants I visited in January seemed to be in something of a slump, a lot of offers were doing the rounds on e-mail and twitter to tempt customers in. There's few things as depressing as eating in a near empty restaurant so it was a great surprise to find the main room at Mr Cooper's almost bulging at the seams with no empty tables in sight. Entering the restaurant from a cold northern evening into an atmosphere such as this was a delight, and was pleased we were seated in the 'garden' area that i'd heard so much about. There was a birthday party in the 'library' (bar) at the far but despite the party being fairly hectic the room is large enough that this wasn't a distraction at all throughout dinner.

Based on the menu descriptions I could have happily tried all of the ten starters and was struggling to make a decision so in the end shared four, wanting to indulge but save room for mains. This can't have been an unusual occurrence as the waiter spotted we could be struggling passing plates over a table overflowing with food and drinks and was kind enough to bring side plates before being asked.

Onto the food. The smoked eel torte with pork belly was delicate taste wise but with sufficiently distinct savoury flavours between the 3 layers to make the combination really interesting, the lovage providing a sharp balance.

Parmesan patties were mini slider style burgers, I wish i'd asked exactly what the 'meat' was - they had the consistency of veggie burgers but instead of the usual bland cardboard taste the mushroom ketchup gave them a tangy flavour that I couldn't quite put my finger on but was really enjoyable. As always with burgers this small they went down in just a couple of mouthfuls making me wish i'd ordered more.

The grilled figs and ham was another perfectly balanced dish and a generous enough portion that i'd have been happy with it as a main. I'm a huge fig fan and these were perfectly ripe, the spicy popcorn introduced an interested added texture and flavour.

The final starter was crunchy pickled chillies with a slab of manchego cheese melted over a generous spread of quince on millet bread. Another well thought out starter with all of the ingredients working perfectly together and leaving me wishing i'd ordered all of the other options to try.

Both mains were extremely impressive - I was immediately drawn to the Cumbrian rib steak, truffle pudding and purple potato latkes on the menu. The large cut of steak that was served up was more than i'd expected - certainly a very generous cut of meat. Combined with the thick salted gravy and the crispy latkes this was again a flawless piece of cooking. The truffle pudding was a dense bready treat, very generously flavoured with truffle which is a powerful taste so I could see it being off-putting to some but I was absolutely in my element by this stage.

Lamb with lentils wasn't something i'd typically go for but the lamb rump was perfectly pink with great depth of flavour. The thin crispy outer of the lamb with the tender body of the cut, firm curried lentils and soft courgette absolutely wowed me.

A side of deep fried pickles despite sounding a simple dish almost stole the show. Red hot and fresh from the fryer with crispy batter but unusually the pickles retained their original crunch and tangy flavour and not going soggy as a result of the frying. I'd tried these before at MeatLiqour but this version was on another level.

Desserts were similarly impressive. The caramel tart did exactly what you'd expect by this stage, dark sugary tart with mild mascarpone ice cream complemented each other well.

I also went with the syllabub which I quickly googled to check what I was getting into and was described as "A drink or dish made of milk (freq. as drawn from the cow) or cream, curdled by the admixture of wine, cider, or other acid, and often sweetened and flavoured" if you're also interested. The dessert came served in a deep bowl with a crispy yogurt and pistachio topping to be shattered with a spoon before digging into the syllabub and delicious flapjacks hiding within.

As icing on the cake even the coffee was fantastic, a nice deep strong hit of espresso to send me off into the night.

In total the bill came to approx £120 for 4 starters, 2 mains, the crispy pickles, a few rounds of cocktails, coffees and tip. For the money paid this was exceptional value and was far away the most impressive restaurant i've visited so far in Manchester.

I immediately booked to go back with friends which is about as high a recommendation I could give. Manchester is lucky to have Mr Cooper's House and it is sure to become an absolute favourite of mine with repeat visits.

I should note I visited in late January and they have since refreshed the menus so a couple of the dishes (the manchego and quince starter and lamb main) have been replaced with equally exciting looking alternatives.

Mr Cooper's House and Garden on Urbanspoon

Bonus shot of the stunning centerpiece in the Midland Hotel lobby:

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