The other day someone asked me where they could eat in Manchester that had proper tablecloths. It sounds like an odd request, but then how many people have bemoaned being served dinner on a piece of slate, bark or even a bin lid? And this in a country that used to offer up its own national dish wrapped in yesterday's up cycled newspaper, how hipster is that?
Well to me the cuisine that takes itself a bit too seriously to get involved with all that tomfoolery has to be French, and with Manchester's own little slice of Parisian gastronomy moving into a new venue slap bang in the middle of the Northern Quarter (the land of questionable serving vessels), I went to go see what the dishes were getting served on, and more to the point what they tasted like.
SPOILER ALERT - all but one dish was served on spotless white crockery.
Both starters were adorned quite delicately with pea shoots and set the scene for some precious presentation throughout our 3 courses. Pea consommé with poached quail egg was cool, creamy and luxurious in texture. I really enjoyed the gravlax millefeuille, a delicious savoury interpretation of the classic layered dessert with smoked salmon and potato.
Examining the options for my main course it was hard to look past the beef fillet with basil béarnaise sauce, and thankfully I didn't. A beautifully seared chunk served very rare, definitely one for the meat lovers. My companion was equally impressed with the signature platter, which lends its name to restaurant. 63 Degrees chicken, so called as it's cooked gently at that temperature. The dish comes in the form of 3 mini stacks of herbed poultry with a velvety sauce, an attractive proposition that lives up to its appearance. We also shared a couple of sides in the form of provençal ratatouille and a delicious gratin Dauphinois.
With a menu that was a bit of a name dropper of culinary technique it came as no surprise to see chocolate fondant on the dessert list, and less so still for me to pick it. As it happened, the pudding was the only dish to be served on slate rather than plate, to be fair though when you bring cake of that quality you can serve it on what you want. It certainly oozed as it should. We also tried the fraisier, a pretty strawberry cake that was sweet, dainty a little bit saucy.
It was all very grown up, proper food, classic dishes and if I'm honest not very trendy. Truth is though it's a long time since French food has been fashionable, it's hard to be cool when you wrote the rule book. This may be food for people who like something a bit traditional, but there isn't the cliched stuffiness you might expect to find. Our service was relaxed not overbearing and the setting feels airy, a serving hatch also adding a hint of atmosphere from the kitchen. The bottom line is, if you want to eat expertly created food paired with great wine without a jam jar cocktail in sight, look no further.