You're spoilt for choice when entering The Midland.
Not only can you get your head down on one of their supremely comfy beds (should that take your fancy) but you have the option to eat in one of two of the city’s most respected and impressive eateries.
On one side you’ve got Adam Reid at The French and on the other – Mr Cooper’s – and it’s at the latter that I found myself sat on a Tuesday afternoon, exploring a rather large but exciting menu and generally savouring the rather regal surroundings I found myself in.
Mr Cooper’s could be described as the ‘brasserie’ to The French’s fine-dining, but it’s well worth a visit in its own right – especially seeing as they have a talented and exciting new Head Chef on board.
Manchester-born Rebecca Richardson recently took over the mantle at Mr Cooper’s and instantly set about creating a menu that focused on using the very best of British produce and flavours.
The result is an eclectic range of dishes that include ingredients such as black pudding apple puree, gin cured salmon, Goosnargh chicken, whipped Jersey butter, minted peas and many more supremely British flavours with a certain summer twist.
So what did we eat and was it any good!? Okay, so we started with the Slow Cooked Crispy Pork Belly and the Truffled Wild Mushrooms alongside a huge board of Homemade Sourdough Bread (£4.50) on the side.
I should probably tell you this early doors; we were enormously impressed by both dishes (and the bread). They looked fantastic, they were exquisitely prepared and the flavours were expertly balanced – creating two dishes that were devoured in seconds.
The Slow Cooked Crispy Pork Belly (£8.00) looked and tasted fantastic. What is actually a rather difficult cut of meat to get right was handled perfectly; it was succulent, meaty, the fat melted in your mouth and there was even a final crispy flourish to it all.
It came served on a huge bed of peppery celeriac slaw and a little crispy ball of deep-fried breaded black pudding. Both were perfect when paired with the meaty pork belly, especially the black pudding which was supremely rich and satisfying with every bite.
Quite why I chose the Truffled Wild Mushrooms (£8.00) is beyond me – I’m not usually a fan of anything truffled – I simply find the flavour way too overpowering and distracting to actually enjoy the whole thing.
I was very pleased to find that this was certainly not the case here. A rather strong initial smell of truffles was quickly replaced by hints of garlic and rosemary – telling me that this wasn’t going to be the usual truffle-fest that you find elsewhere.
Perched on what could best be described as a large garlic crouton, the mushrooms were flavoured to perfection, with just the slightest hint of truffle to keep you wanting more (and not at all overpowering).
I actually ended up preferring the mushrooms over the pork belly, which is pretty much unheard of in my endless pursuit of meat and more meat, but it truly was a well-balanced and utterly pleasurable dish to eat.
On to the mains and the choice on offer is pretty extensive. The menu features a whole section ‘From The Grill’, offering up an impressive range of steak cuts, alongside a rather impressive selection of dishes which tick off pretty much all the boxes in terms of tastes, dietary requirements and cravings.
First off we ordered the Cumbrian Lamb Rump (£19.00) which came looking strikingly impressive served up alongside some luminous green minted peas and a sweet potato fondant.
Once again the lamb was handled expertly by the kitchen, perfectly seared on the outside and pink in the middle. The quality of the meat was instantly identifiable – the on-site butcher is certainly doing a fantastic job back there.
Alongside the minted, creamy peas and the rich sweet fondant potatoes, the dish was balanced and subtle; the peas allowing the meaty lamb flavours to shine through, while the fondant potatoes added a sweet twang to the whole thing that was in no way ever too sweet.
Similarly, the Braised Beef Cheek (£18.00) was well balanced alongside mashed potato and sprinkled with a bone marrow crumb. This dish was however in no way subtle at all – hitting you straight away with that characteristic beef cheek richness that evokes what it must have felt like to eat like Henry VIII all those years ago.
The meat itself literally melted with the lighted touch of my fork, and the bone marrow crumb offered a welcome curve-ball in terms of texture and taste.
Alongside the mashed potatoes this was certainly the perfect example of British comfort food – a dish that wouldn’t be out of place alongside a roaring log fire and sleeping sheep dog.
We finished on a dessert that had been recommended to us by most of the staff there – The Allotment (£7.50) – a kind of ‘signature’ dish from Head Chef Rebecca and something which I urge anyone who eats at Mr Cooper’s to save room in their bellies for.
To say that this is a complex dish is a bit of an understatement – it’s loaded with a huge array of different morsels, surprises and treats which keep you going right up to the end.
Decked out like the Blue Peter garden after it was vandalised, there’s chocolate ‘soil’, marzipan carrots, strawberry sorbet, baby toffee apples, sweet cherries and a chocolate mousse, all waiting to be picked at, combined and consumed – and surprisingly enough – it works. Like, really well.
And to be fair, that’s the thing that I came away from the whole Mr Cooper’s experience with. Everything just seems to work really well with each other. In what was undoubtedly a fantastic meal I was surprised that in the dishes we chose there were absolutely no missteps at all.
It shows how Rebecca Richardson has seemingly taken supreme care and consideration with all aspects of this menu, creating an exciting range of dishes that you’re pretty much guaranteed to be impressed by and that she should be proud of.
We certainly were.
Mr Cooper’s House & Garden
Mr Cooper’s House & Garden, 16 Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS
0161 235 4781