Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The French by Simon Rogan

The French, looking green'n'growthy
Christ, but it was awful. Shortly before The French closed in order to be saved by Simon Rogan, I organised a little field trip to say goodbye to the restaurant where Posh and Becks, it's said, had their first date. The consomme was dull, the sole Veronique was weird, and the bread trolley, which I liked because everything on it seemed to be topped with local cheese, had been replaced by a sad little tray. The only glory was the longstanding waiter who, just as I remembered, murmured winningly "Please. Shall we? Thank you!" as he cleared. You'll get no argument from me: The French needed a jazzle.

Now Simon Rogan has arrived. I went to the preview evening, and was thrilled. For one thing, I can now leave the house, avail myself of public transport, eat a world-class 10-course meal and be home before midnight. It's like living in Birmingham. For another, there's joy in the fact that this very Mancunian space, which has gone green and brown in line with Rogan's all-natural ethos, is offering something that the chef's other places do not. L'enclume is very slatey. Roganic, not surprisingly, feels temporary. The French offers some of the grandeur with which Rogan's food, veg-centric and 'umble though it is in parts, should rightly be surrounded.

For pictures of the dishes, have a look at my friend Deanna's blog. The preview menu we had wasn't the finished, finished article, but it's safe to say that ox in coal oil with little beads of kohlrabi and crisp pumpkin seeds, early spring offerings with lovely buckler leaf sorrel (I think; the wine flight was aloft by that point) and Herdwick hogget with sweetbreads and ramsons are the best dishes served in Manchester for years. The service is excellent, and they've kept the "Please. Thank you!" man, which delights me.

I have the same conversation over and over again with friends here who like food, and need somewhere they can take visitors - perhaps even from That London - to eat without risking mortification. The French is it, and much more besides.