Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Marc Wilkinson comes to civilisation

I haven't got much against the Wirral, except that depending on which bit of it you're going to, it can take ages to get there. A recent visit to Heswall involved two trains and two buses and took two-and-a-half hours – no wonder that, against all the odds and a bump that gets in the way of what my instructor calls 'peep and creep', I'm trying to learn to drive.

One of the nicest things about the peninsula, apart from my mate Liz and her lovely baby daughter Nancy, is Marc Wilkinson's restaurant, Fraiche, in Oxton. He works alone, very hard, and his food is great: inventive without being stupid. His Michelin star, awarded last year after a frustrating wait, is well deserved.

After being clouted (accidentally) in the heed by a pensioner on the bus, my day has improved considerably with the news that Marc will be plying his craft in Manchester for one night only. Harvey Nichols have just sent news that he'll be cooking a 40-cover dinner in their restaurant on January 25, showing off dishes from his signature menu, which is the one between entry level and 'hold on lads, I'm going mental'. Five courses with matching wines, water, coffee and service is £90, which is perfectly reasonable for a taste of Fraiche without the tear-stained Merseyrail ticket and 40-minute delay at Chester, where they have helpfully demolished the ladies' loos on platform 7.

It should be the most confident, interesting food that's been served at Harvey Nichols for a while, and hopefully he'll be bringing Gemma, his young and extremely capable front of house, to oversee service. And it's a Monday night, so there should be plenty of off-duty chefs in attendance. That could make for extra sport, especially if they get drunk and start throwing stuff at me. It's always a risk.

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