Food & Drink

Review: Mr Cooper’s House & Garden @ The Midland Hotel

“Mr. Cooper’s? That’s the place inside the Midland hotel isn’t it?”

That seemed to be the most common response when we spoke to people about the British Brasserie restaurant inside the The Midland Hotel, but we aren’t so sure why that is.

Mancunian Matters went to visit Mr. Cooper’s last Sunday for lunch, and after several courses and a carafe of wine later, we left questioning why this place isn’t on people’s lips at the moment.

It is true that the restaurant has had a recent history of ever-changing head chefs and we can understand that good food needs stability, direction and time to fall into its niche, but the new head chef, Rebecca Richardson, could be onto something solid this time round.

Rebecca has gone back to the roots of it all. Taking the original Mr. Cooper’s lead by using home-grown seasonal produce, she has taken a British stance on her food, introducing warm and comforting meals.

She says: “We’ve implemented a number of changes to our Sunday menu as winter approaches, adding in a lot more dishes and breaking it into sections.

“Roasts are so popular, they deserved their own section and we decided to introduce from the grill into our Sunday menu so that diners have a lot more choice.”

And choice there was. We’ll start with the homemade bread (£4.50).

Crispy on the outside, warm, tasty and soft on the inside. It was the type of bread, that when taking a bite, a landmine explosion of flavour burst in your mouth whenever you came across a juicy sundried tomato.

A large portion of rosemary butter and some sea-salt came alongside it and the extra lathering of butter which merely melted away into the bread, with a sprinkle of salt, left us in no doubt that the extra cholesterol we were inhaling was merely just the stairway to heaven. We would order it three times over if we could.

We chose some of the new dishes to start off with and while the truffled wild mushrooms (£8.00) managed to not overpower what can often be an overbearing flavour of truffle, we just weren’t quite sure of this dish.

It was creamy and full of flavour but reminded us of a meal we would order for brunch, alongside a cappuccino and in a café, and not really the mushroom dish we intended to go with our Pinot Noir in a two AA rosette restaurant. The poached hen’s egg topping led to it being even more of a brunch dish idea for us, and the grilled garlic rosemary bread lacked the grill, the garlic and the rosemary.

Nevertheless, there was no time to dwindle on the brunch-like-dish because when it came time to try the scallop starter (£11.50), we were distracted by the earthy, warm and consoling take on this dish.

Pan fried scallops sitting on a shallot purée and decorated with a hazelnut and caper crumb.

Yes, it tasted as good as it sounds. It was a brilliant difference to the usual fresh, ‘lemon-butter seaside’ take on the shellfish. It was cosy and autumnal and reassuring. It warmed the soul, and while the shallot purée cut through the savoury taste of the sauce, giving the dish a delicate sweet note, it balanced with the sweetness of the perfectly cooked scallop and crunch of the crumb.

Although not the largest scallops we have ever seen, we were more than satisfied with this starter and spoke of the perfection of the dish for several moments after we had finished it.

The main courses came through next. An extremely large dish was placed in front of us and, drenched in a most flavoursome, made-from-scratch gravy, sat a whole half a roast chicken complete with all the right trimmings.

A butternut purée together with a parsnip purée bedded the traditional Sunday meal. Crisp buttery green beans and broccoli topped that, a classic Yorkshire pudding stood proudly to the side of it, meanwhile the roast potatoes and roast parsnip hid beneath a succulent piece of perfectly roasted chicken (£15.95).

Now, we don’t say this lightly. We are just as aware as you are that ordering chicken for your Sunday meal could turn out to be a dry disaster, but this, however, was not. The moist chicken continuously oozed out flavour with every mouthful, all while keeping its crunchy skin, and not once did it need to be covered by gravy for us to enjoy it. Each element of the dish was spot on and created a full plate of never-ending goodness.

The braised beef cheek (£18) was an impressive dish too. Accompanied by some spring greens, mashed potato and a bone marrow crumb, this main course was yet another uplifting and warm dish, although we agreed it was lacking a bit of punchiness.

We would like to have seen a richer character shine through, but it was by no means any less of a dish. It fell apart with the touch of a fork and it is key to note that the in-house butcher at The Midland definitely makes a huge difference to the quality of the meat.

We waited for a while before the dessert menus came about. We weren’t too sure whether this was a genius plan to let our food settle down before introducing us to the desserts, or if we had merely been neglected. Whatever the reason, we were ready for something sweet.

We decided to order the ‘Allotment’ (£7.50) which is the restaurant’s signature dish, and the crème brûlée (£6.50) which happens to be one of our personal favourites.

The Allotment consisted of a chocolate soil sprinkled with some popping candy. It was decorated with a strawberry sorbet, edible flowers, marzipan carrots, baby toffee apples, sweet cherries and a chocolate mousse in a dark chocolate box.

It was obviously made to represent an allotment of sorts and fitted in perfectly well with the original theme of Mr. Cooper and his garden. It was a pretty dish to look at, and very intricate in its nature, but we did understand how all the flavours worked together.

Individually, each element was true to itself. The chocolate mousse was rich and deep, the marzipan carrots tasted like almonds and the strawberry sorbet was sweet and refreshing as it should be. The tastes were all there, but altogether on one plate, it just seemed a bit confusing and too much for us.

The glazed vanilla-brûlée came with a little fruit basket. It was filled with cut up pieces of kiwi, apple, some pomegranate seeds and mint.

Again, we didn’t quite understand the fruit, and wondered if it could be a somewhat pallet cleanser for the creamy dish alongside it? Ignoring that however, the crème brûlée itself was faultless.

It had the right sweetness and creaminess you expect to find it the custardy like dessert and topped with its crunchy burnt sugar, it proved to be a sweet treat which didn’t leave us feeling overly full and the biscuit basket, which previously contained the fruit, was the perfect crunchy, edible spoon we used to lap this yellow-golden dessert up with.

There’s a lot to be impressed by with this restaurant. It boasts a lot of wholesome, British flavours and is in an easy setting to be in. The high ceilings and glass chandeliers are an elegant reminder that you are still inside a popular, four-star hotel but the indoors-outdoors theme gives the restaurant a nice relaxed touch.

We thought that for what we were served, the prices were good value for money, and although the service was a bit slower nearer the end of our meal, we wouldn’t hesitate in advising people to go try it out.

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