MANCHESTER RESTAURANT REVIEWS - Mr Cooper's Manchester Reviews  
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Mr Cooper's House & Garden Manchester Reviews
4 stars 82%

Midland Hotel, Peter Street, Manchester, M60 2DS

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Mr Coopers Manchester Review
A Budget Taste Of L'Enclume

Autumn is here and it's all change at Mr Cooper's, exactly two years since it originally opened in the plush Midland Hotel. The new menu, reflects the seasonal produce being grown in the hotel's tiny roof garden and, more importantly, that from Simon Rogan's farm at his 2 Star Michelin restaurant, L'Enclume, just an hour and a half up the road in Cartmel, which has just retained its crown of "The Best Restaurant in Britain" in the latest edition of The Good Food Guide, for the second year running. With that in mind, we popped in the evening after the new menu's premiere to see if the dishes stood up to the high standards set by the restaurant's previous summery choices.

Having just taken the reigns, following a brief visit to the Champagne Academy in France, new head bartender Joe Butcher, formerly the manager of Epernay, explained his ideas for the new cocktail menu, which was due to be launched later that week, with influences from the kitchen. He is the third top name the bar has employed, following in the footsteps of Nate Booker and Tim Laferla, who had gone on to reach the Diageo World Class British Finals. The menu still includes many of their amazing creations as well as Joey's addition, the "Honeymoon", a delicious mix which reinforces the notion that this is still the place to come for the best cocktails in town.

Taking our cocktails from the Library bar into the restaurant, a welcoming "inside garden" dining arena centred around a 30 foot high tree, inspired by The Savoy in London, we took the waiter's recommendation of the Crispy Oxtail and Marrow Croquettes (£3.50) as sharing nibbles whilst we perused the menu. An excellent choice, if somewhat too greasy, these would also make an ample starter dish. The Home Baked Sourdough Bread with Whipped Butter and Salt Flakes (£3.50), also come highly recommended, especially as a bread basket is not offered to the table.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review
Mr Coopers Manchester Review

Not all the dishes on the Autumn menu are new, and we opted for one of the old favourites that have remained. The starter of Buttermilk Fried Oysters (£8) were delightful, even if deep frying such a flavoursome delicacy is more representative of America's Lone Star State, rather than a Michelin Star chef. The combination of the oyster, light batter, pears, pickled fennel and kimchee puree worked a treat.

Possibly the best dish I've ever eaten was under the same roof - a forty ingredient "Late Autumnal Offerings" salad in Simon Rogan's adjacent The French restaurant; every single bite revealing a different taste experience. It was the memory of that dish that influenced my order of the Stichelton & Red Cabbage Coleslaw (£7.50), a new addition to the menu. The complex flavours of the strong blue cheese, red cabbage, mustard and salted walnuts, very much making it a highly recommended dish - especially for cheese lovers. If anything, personally, I would have preferred the walnuts to be served au naturel, as they were a little too caramelised, annoyingly sticking to my teeth.

Although similar in taste and production to Stilton, Stichelton is made with unpasteurised milk and, as a result, has an apparently creamier edge. It's one of only a few dishes on the menu that you could term 100% British, something Simon Rogan is celebrated for at L'Enclume, The French and his new Michelin Star offering, Fera at Claridge's in London.

The same could not be said of the Thai Crab Cakes (£7.50); a new addition to the menu and one of many dishes pointing more to the Far East rather than the North West. Complemented by a mango salsa and coriander mayo, the flavours were pleasurably powerful. Reviews in the national press previously had been somewhat undecided as to Mr Cooper's combinations of ingredients, with the Independent saying that they "owed more to Google Earth than Mrs Beeton" and Jay Raynor going as far as describing the menu as "baffling". You can understand such descriptions, when starters like this sit alongside Koftas glazed in hyssop, apricot, bean puree and tzatziki (£8) or Yuba Spinach Rolls with nameko mushrooms, dashi reduction and sesame (£7), and with ingredients as diverse as paw paw, wasabi relish, chorizo, strozzapreti pasta, truffle pudding and pak choi appearing across the menu. But that's surely snootily missing the point. There's something here for everybody and Mr Cooper's isn't L'Enclume, Claridge's or even The French for that matter, nor does it try to be, with dishes priced from £7 for starters and £12.50 for mains. Instead it's a fantastic, affordable, casual restaurant which highlights the creativity and boundary-pushing approach of the Cumbrian chef; even if the menu is more internationally influenced than those which earned him 3 Michelin Stars.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review

And that leads us on to the main courses. You'd have to be in an especially grumpy mood (or Jay Raynor) to find fault with these. The Hot Smoked Salmon (£15.50) is a dish that has been adapted slightly from the Summer menu. Now served with aubergine, instead of green onion, the ginger and coriander vinaigrette gave the dish a beautiful taste. However, it was two new dishes that had us most impressed.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review

The Butter Poached Pollock with Smoked Eel Risotto, lovage and leek (£16.50) could quite easily sit on the Tasting Menu at Simon Rogan's fine dining restaurants and leave the diner equally happy as with some of his other more technical dishes . We'd describe the portion sizes of all the main courses as being "just right", although those with a larger appetite, might want to order a side dish (all £4). Talking of which, regulars will be glad to hear, the popular Creamed Kale Spinach with Bacon remains on the menu.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review

The service had been superb throughout the meal - we actually judge what is going on at the surrounding tables, as well as our own - and each of the waiters displayed great knowledge of the dishes being served up, all having tasted the new dishes ahead of the menu launch, the previous night. Using that as a guide, I ordered the Lamb Rump (£15), which our waiter couldn't recommend highly enough. He was spot on. I can't remember tasting as good a lamb dish in Manchester before. Accompanied by spiced green lentils, minted courgettes, and drizzled with a lamb and garlic sauce, I would not be surprised to learn that this dish had originally been created at L'Enclume, it was that impressive.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review

On earlier visits to Mr Coopers, we had often complained that the desserts did not match up to the rest of the dining experience, although it is obvious that the new menu addresses that complaint. The Macerated Plums and Flapjack (£7.50), served with buttermilk custard and sorrel, was the highlight and a great way to eat our way into Autumn.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review
Mr Coopers Manchester Review

The Warm Pear Cake (£7.50), served with a delicious chamomile ice cream, was another autumnal edition that succeeded, although we can't really describe the Douglas fir ingredient in more detail, having never tasted a Christmas Tree before. One can only presume it had been used in flavouring the sauce.

Another new addition to the menu, is the Pineapple Tarte Tatin (£7.50), topped with spiced ice cream and pepper caramel, a great dish to end a great meal. With the plums, pear and pineapple desserts amongst other dishes containing fruits as diverse as bananas, grapes, apples, coconuts, lemons, raspberries, paw paws, mangos and apricots, you get the idea of how many different influences go into the dishes. In fact, the restaurant is named after Mr Cooper, a coach maker whose house and famous gardens, filled with strawberries, gooseberries, apples and flowers, sat on the site back in 1819. It is therefore fitting, and probably intentional, that the 33 choices on the menu contain so many varieties of fruit, vegetables, plants and spices. Call that "baffling" if you will, however they don't all appear in the same dish and, if you can't choose a three course meal here that suits your tastes, then you either have a very fussy palate and/or a very closed mind.

Mr Coopers Manchester Review

A special mention should be made of the wine list, compiled by the amiable Portuguese restaurant manager, Fernando Marques. With more than 50 bottles to choose from, with 12 available by the glass (175ml is counted as small here too) - there's also a special organic wine menu, reflecting his passion - the price list is in line with that of the value-for-money food. The house wines are good - a bespoke Chenin Blanc or the Australian Bonavita Merlot (both £19 a bottle) although we can highly recommend the delicious Argentinean Bodega Atamisque Serbal Malbec (£34 a bottle), the revelation that was the Chilean Tierra Unoaked Chardonnay (£22), and the Austrian Gruber-Roschitz Gruner Veltliner (£28.50), one of the best Gruener's I've ever tasted, and very highly regarded by my wine making friends in the Wienviertal wine region, where I lived last year.

Whilst the cost of them will push your bill up, we can't recommend the dessert wines enough. Fernando has excelled himself with his offering. It's the first time we've seen Eiswein in Manchester; a hard-to-produce sweet wine with the grapes having been frozen while still on the vine. The Austrian Willi Opitz Welschriesling (£10 a glass) offered by Mr Cooper's is the perfect introduction to the variety. If you can afford it, we recommend the incredible syrupy sweet Sicilian Donnafugata Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria (£15 a glass), recognised as one of the most outstanding dessert wines in the world.

Overall, Mr Coopers scores very highly and thoroughly deserves its place high up in our Top 10 Best Restaurants in Manchester list. The food is exceptional, even if the choices are somewhat "random"; the cocktails arguably the best in town and the wine list is excellent; prices are reasonable - especially for food of this level of cooking; service is attentive, informative and friendly (the 10% service charge actually goes to the team too); and the decor is inviting, despite areas of it being compared to an upmarket garden centre. Based on our experiences, you'd have to be a serious grump to find issue with the place. It's definitely our choice for the season.

~ Neil, Restaurants Of Manchester (visited Saturday evening 12 Sep 2015)


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4 stars 82%


"Eating at Mr Cooper's feels like playing ‘ingredient bingo’" ~ Jay Raynor, Guardian (13/5/15)

"One thing is clear, Rogan doesn't do bland" ~ Tracey MacLeod, Independent (18/1/14)

"This is inspired food cooked wonderfully for a bargain price" ~ Paul Ogden, MEN (29/9/13)

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Disclaimer: All information correct 1/4/2015. and can not be held responsible for any differences experienced at the premises listed.

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