By Jo Cooksey
Manchester’s Midland Hotel is, as it states on its website, ‘An Icon of Elegance.’ Part of the city’s landscape since 1903, its Edwardian Baroque façade welcomes visitors to its 4-star luxury portals from all over the world. Originally built to serve train travelers arriving from London by Midland Railways, hence the hotel’s name, the build cost was an enormous 1 million pounds. In today’s money that would be around £120 million.
A Manchester Icon
Manchester has more than its fair share of hotels these days; from basic budget through to fancy schmancy but none have the grandeur or elegance of The Midland in my eyes. It has hosted many famous people, even Royalty. From Queen Elizabeth, the Queens Mother to Winston Churchill and the Beatles to Bruce Springsteen. Of course, it is where Mr. Rolls met Mr. Royce for the first time and legend has that that Hitler had it earmarked for his headquarters once the Germans had successfully invaded Britain. In its early years the hotel had its own theatre, a roof garden and a Turkish bath.
To me, The Midland will always be THE hotel in Manchester and recntly we popped in to have lunch in the 2 AA Star, Mr. Cooper’s House and Garden. This is one of the hotel’s fine restaurants, named after a coach-maker, Thomas Cooper, whose house and locally famous garden, occupied the site before the hotel came along. Apparently, his soft fruits were second to none.
I still get a frisson of excitement whenever I enter the hotel, despite having been a visitor since I was a little girl. Although, I had never visited Mr. Cooper’s before. I remember when it was still The Colony. It is a large, airy, elegant space with nods to the garden in the shape of green foliage, including a tree and a sweet little wooden arbor for a more intimate dining experience.
While sipping on a perfect serve G&T we scrutinised the menu and found it much to our liking. There are nibbley bits, which we didn’t indulge in on this occasion, preferring to wade straight into the starters.
My dining companion chose the Pan Fried Scallops with Shallot Puree and Hazelnut and Caper Crumb. The scallops were cooked to perfection; firm but juicy, sweet, buttery and tasting fresh out of the sea. We were happy to see the chef had left the orange coral cuff on because we really enjoy that part of a scallop. My choice was one dishes introduced by new head chef, Rebecca Richardson, Slow Cooked Crispy Pork Belly with Celeriac Slaw, a Black Pudding Bon Bon, Pork Crackling Quaver and Apple Puree. The whole dish was meltingly rich, sticky, and sweet. Grown up comfort food.
Main courses followed at a suitable interval. Not too close to the starter to feel rushed and not far after that we started to panic that they had forgotten us. In fact, throughout the meal, the service we received was polite and professional. Just as it always is at The Midland.
The mains section of the menu covers most bases, from the recently expanded grill selection to fish and vegetarian options. My pal chose the Roast Cod, with a Mango Salad and Light-spiced Cauliflower. The fish was moist and a generous size. It was complimented by the delicate heat of the spiced cauliflower and both were fused together with the creamy cauli puree. I had trouble deciding on my main, as usual. It was a toss-up between Rachael’s Cumbrian Lamb Rump with Minted Peas, Squash and Fondant Potato. Or the Braised Beef Cheek with Spring Greens and a Bone Marrow Crumb. I consulted our server and he said although they were both excellent dishes, for him the beef the winner by a nose. Sorry couldn’t resist the pun. So, the beef it was, and I have to say it was faultless. Slow cooked until the meat just fell apart and enrobed in a rich, luxurious gravy and lain gently on a bed of verdant spring greens and artistically piped, velvety mashed potatoes. The bone marrow crumb gave an appropriate amount of texture to the plate. No matter how many plant-based meals I try to eat to balance out my carbon footprint, a dish like this will always have me rushing back to the dining table.
Dessert time. Having eschewed brekkie in order to fit three courses in we eagerly surveyed the pudding menu. One of the dishes, called The Allotment, is a tribute to Mr Cooper and his green fingers. It comprises of a chocolate tub filled with a chocolate cherry kirsch mousse and topped with chocolate soil and a little spade. There are marzipan carrots, tiny toffee apples, strawberry sorbet and micro basil and mint. As well as being fun to look at, my lunch buddy said that every aspect was utterly delicious.
My choice was the Slow Cooked Pineapple, Coconut Crumble, a Coconut Emulsion, Grass Ice Cream and a Rum Gel. This tropical pud was bursting with exotic flavours and was like a cross between a Pina Colada and a Bounty bar. Perfection.
Will We Return?
Yes, we would. Weekly if we could. Everything was beautifully presented from the table settings to the food. The staff were exceptional, and the restaurant has a lovely atmosphere of a bygone era but without being stuffy. Rather like being an extra on the set of Downton Abbey. Now if they could get Carson to wait at table my life would be complete.
We were gifted our food and drink, but thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.