As you know, we greedy sisters love trying new food for ourselves, but we also like learning about it from our favourite cookery shows. And one chef we keep hearing about on our TVs at the moment is Simon Rogan. He won the desserts round in last year’s Great British Menu and James Martin was singing Simon’s praises on Saturday Kitchen this weekend. A trip to his Michelin-starred L’Enclume in the Lake District is high on our to-do list, as is a visit to The French in Manchester’s Midland hotel. But in the meantime, we recently decided to check out Simon’s newest venture – also at The Midland – Mr Cooper’s House & Garden.
We started our meal in the spacious ‘library’ area of the restaurant. The decor was designed to reflect the story behind Mr Cooper, whose house and gardens used to occupy the Midland site in the early 19th century. The famous Cooper family would occasionally invite Manchester’s residents to tour their extensive gardens, where the Coopers grew strawberries, gooseberries, flowers and apples. This horticultural history can be seen in the interesting food and drinks menu, from which we choose two delicious cocktails – one topped with edible flowers and the other served with fresh pomegranate seeds.
After our aperitifs we headed to the ‘garden’ area to dine and we were seated in a cosy ‘gazebo’. Unfortunately the Sunday roast menu had proved so popular they had sold out of the main course, but thankfully plenty of other options greeted us on the a la carte alternative. To start, we ordered Spiced split pea & potato soup with black sesame falafel and Deep fried prawns, with mango and chorizo marmalade. Both were beautifully presented and tasted just as good as they looked. Always looking for new ways to introduce falafel into my meals, I’m keen to try making my own version of the spicy soup at home.
My main course was Grilled vegetable lasagne, with preserved lemon salad and foccacia. Between sheets of perfect pasta was a hearty mix of winter vegetables like beetroot and the tangy salad was so moreish! My greedy sister went for Cumbrian rib steak, with truffle pudding and purple potato latkes. The meat was deliciously tender, while the truffle pudding (likened to a savoury bread and butter pudding) was a unique concept that really worked.
With such fantastic starters and mains we simply had to see what Simon had concocted for desserts, and we weren’t disappointed. The choice was so tempting that we all decided to share a selection. We narrowed it down to Chocolate pizza, Peanut parfait with marinated strawberries and sweet cucumber syrup, and Passion pudding with coconut rice. The chocolate pizza was made from a light brioche steeped in cocoa and dark chocolate, topped with vanilla ice cream, while the passion fruit pudding was the perfect mix of tang and creamy coconut. But the highlight for me was the delicate cucumber syrup that was served with the peanut parfait; one of the most unusual yet delicious sauces I’ve ever tried.
The planning and imagination that went into designing the menu at Mr Cooper’s House & Garden can be seen in every dish, yet the prices are really reasonable. Based on our visit we can’t wait to try some of Simon Rogan’s other restaurants and we’d recommend you do the same.