French revolution: Adam Reid on taking over the Manchester restaurant

By Sophie Witts contact

- Last updated on GMT

Adam Reid on taking over The French from Simon Rogan

Related tags: Tasting menu, Michelin guide, Restaurant

Chef Adam Reid has taken control of The French at Manchester’s Midland Hotel following the premature departure of Simon Rogan last year. The restaurant re-opened this month after a refurbishment.

It’s now called Adam Reid at The French.​ What else has changed?

We’ve built a chefs counter to replace a couple of tables no one really liked because they were by the service door, and it’s completely transformed the way we work. We do all the cold service from there now. It’s nice as people can see what’s going on and the food doesn’t have such a big journey from the kitchen. We’re also planning to put in seven bar seats so guests can have one of the courses from the tasting menu prepared and served at the counter. There will be periods in the week where we might be able to sell them as chefs table seats as well.

Was the purpose to make the restaurant more relaxed?

Massively. It’s a very big and airy room and the lighting didn’t really do much for it in terms of atmosphere. It put people on edge a bit when they came through the door rather than relaxing them. The days of just being sat in a restaurant waiting for plates to arrive without any interaction with the chef are over; people want a bit more than that, especially in Manchester.

How does your menu differ from what Simon served?

My food has simpler presentation but there’s a lot going on in terms of behind the scenes preparation. The duck dish on at the moment takes two weeks from buying the ducks to serving it because we hang and prepare the ducks in different ways. I’ve kept the tasting menus because I’ve been cooking here for four years under Simon and it’s a great format, but I’ve changed the lunch offer to be more accessible. There is a new a small plates menu that’s based around the tasting menu dishes but we serve them individually priced. So you can come in for lunch and treat it like a three-course menu.

Is the price the same?

Yes, it’s the same for the tasting menu. I’ve kept the price but actually dropped a few courses so it’s less fussy. This has allowed me to up the quality of produce as I can afford to use better stuff.

Will you still use produce from Simon’s farm?

No, we’ve got no ties with Simon anymore but we’re still good friends. I still have the same ethos about sourcing, and we actually grow our own cresses on-site. I’ve made an allotment on the roof of the hotel with about 20 raised beds and we grow our own perilla and apple marigold. I actually looked in to building some glasshouses but it wasn’t practical because you can get 60-80 mph winds up there, but I’m confident we could grow some baby veg. That’s something I’ve taken from Simon, if you can’t buy the perfect produce then grow it yourself.

Do you feel pressure now you’ve got your name over the door?

In some respects yes, there’s pressure to live up to what Simon’s been doing for the last three and a half years, which is difficult. But I don’t feel like I’m trying to emulate a two Michelin star chef. I have free rein to come up with my own dishes as I’m not trying to fit them in to certain parameters.

Are you aiming to get back The French’s Michelin star?

I wouldn’t be true to myself as a chef if I wasn’t pushing for that kind of level, but I just want to have a really good restaurant that people enjoy. If the accolades come then that’s great but I just want to create an amazing product.

What was your background before The French?

My main stints have been at The Chester Grosvenor under Simon Radley for around three years, and before that I was at the Mallory Court hotel in Leamington. When I was younger I did some travelling in Germany that actually feeds in to what I’m doing now. I use a lot of fermented flavours and cured meats so it’s turned out to be quite a big influence on what I do.

You had the winning dessert on the last series of Great British Menu, what’s been the impact of being on the show?

In general terms the restaurant’s been busier, as you get a lot of people coming in because they’ve seen it on TV. In the trade it puts your name out to a lot more people, and I’ve had one or two offers from other restaurants. But with Simon departing the opportunity was here to create something with my name above the door, so it was a no-brainer really.

Related topics: People, Restaurants, Small Talk

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