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Mr Cooper's Manchester
Mr Cooper's Reviews
AddressMidland Hotel, Peter Street, Manchester, M60 2DS
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Mr Cooper's Manchester
Mr Cooper's Restaurant Reviews

The term fine dining doesn’t really have a set meaning these days.  Back when I was new to the game, it usually meant a level of formality, slightly stiff service, and intrinsically food prepared with care, technique and fine ingredients.  'Fine' food was more niche and mainstream than it is now is, and dare I say it, a touch Elitist really.  In 2017 though everybody is a foodie, everybody is a food critic, and places selling fine food come in all shapes to cater for a broader audience. 

You can now be a fine dining tapas bar, a fine dining steak  house, a fine dining whatever you want to be, as long as the food is 'fine' in the context of excellence.  People in our great city generally run a mile from anything which actively promotes itself as being fine dining though, and to be blunt, places in Manchester which actively use that term generally fall short of being anything more than 'fine' as in the OK sense.  Fine dining curry houses, Thai places, etc usually just means that you'll pay £3 more for your noodles, due to nice lighting and fancy plates. 

One thing which has remained constant though over the years when it comes to fine dining, regardless of the packaging, is the quality of food. That’s what it's all about, ultimately.  What Manchester lacked for years was a place which served genuine quality food, fine dining as it would, without any of the formality and stiffness.  Without being stereotypically 'fine', based in a serious room or any of that. 

When Mr Cooper's popped up, that calling seemed to have been answered.  Launched hot on the heels of the slightly more formal, grander and 'finer' dining experience over the lobby; Mr Coopers was labelled as an international restaurant, to suit all tastes, in a funky, fun, totally informal dining space.  The truffled beef served at the launch party is still fresh in my stored food memory banks.  The cocktails have always been some of the finest in the city too, ideal in a city which loves drink-led, vibrantly ambianced dining more than any other in the UK. 

The food stood up to the test too, delivering informal quality, guided at the time by Simon Rogan, whose Cumbrian sourced produce is some of the best in the country which is a big part of why he's based up there.  Now Simon Rogan has left, and we were curious to see what had changed at Mr Coopers so nipped down to have a look first hand. 

Mr Cooper's Manchester

Looking over the menu with a cocktail or two, which are still indeed some of the best in the city, it was good to see the same heavy use of Cumbrian produce.  Why break links with trusted suppliers who deliver consistently good produce which you know well, regardless of whose name is over the door?   

Coming back to that drinks list; wine mark-ups were a tad high in places. The lovely Vidal NZ Sauvignon Blanc at £33 was a hefty tag for a bottle which I picked up at the wine merchants the other day for just £8.25.  City centre, 4 star hotel mark-ups forgotten though, you can't argue with the quality and better value throughout the wine list though, with something for most tastes and budgets, with choices around the £20.  It's generally one of the best drinks offerings in the city on balance, and without question is one of our go-to cocktail venues. 

Mr Cooper's Manchester

The dining room is still lovely and age has been kind to the theme.  We sat in our favoured spot; The Garden, under the tree.  An actual tree too. 

The Library area is also lovely but can feel a bit snug when well occupied, so we were happy with this spot.   Looking around, mainly the floors, are already showing signs of ageing and heavy wear. 

A little bit of TLC could be needed before it gets out of hand and those little things which you see every day eventually become normal and hence unnoticed.  Still, it’s a cracking space all in all, and you'd be hard pressed to find somewhere similar looking in an age of overly used Edison bulbs and generic styling. 

Mr Cooper's Manchester Mr Cooper's Manchester

Plates started to land, and the start was a good one; nice bread served with seasoned butter, on a plank too.  We tucked in and got the tastebuds online. 

The Charred Mackeral with Horseradish Veloute starter (£8.00) was generally solid.  Perfectly cooked, probably blowtorched fish, garnished with some leek ash and beetroot oil. The veloute was massively salty though, especially on top of an already salty fish, but still textbook like made, ultra-light, and my seasoning addicted sidekick disagreed about the Maldon levels, so each to their own on that one really. 

Next was Pressed Ham Hock with crispy pig's cheek (£8.50), which was a porky triumph of taste and texture.  The rich egg yolk and brown sauce lifted the dish massively, and the pair of plates were a very good start. 

Mr Cooper's Manchester Mr Cooper's Manchester

We splurged a bit on the Cumbrian Beef Sirloin, with smoked beetroot puree, parsley root and marrow fat jus (£26.50), which was cooked pink as requested and clearly very high quality beef. Anything smoked is good in food terms, and the beetroot was immense, adding to an already bold dish with big flavours. 

Cumbrian Lamb Rump (£20.50), which you'd assume was Herdwick based on its quality and those Cumbrian sources, came with scorched turnips and cracked wheat with a superb lamb jus.  Probably just edged out the beef as an all-round plate too, feeling more complete somehow. 

Mr Cooper's Manchester Mr Cooper's Manchester

Neither plate needed sides really, but we dived in anyway.  Chips were a sad failure though, and we've said this on every visit to Mr Coopers, yet we still keep giving them another shot.  £4.50 for a vessel of standard fries, plus you could see the bottom of said vessel prior to even diving in, so it was hardly a free-flowing portion.  No truffle-oiled, parmesan-doused, skin-on, hand-chipped, artisan fries, served in an enamel dish either, which you could warrant spending almost an hours post tax minimum wage on.  They were OK, but just fries, with salt to be fair.  The kitchen can do much better though.  Easy profits I guess, but still, inexcusable in Manchester especially.  We invented eating chips with everything after all.

Our other side dish of Cauliflower and Leek Gratin (also £4.50) was however, splendid.  A vegetarian's main course masquerading as a side dish, in fact.  Perfectly cooked al dente cauli, with supremely rich and decadent white sauce, then good acidity from the leeks to keep it all in harmony, served in a huge portion to boot.  I don’t mind admitting that this was in the top 3 of all 9 things which we ordered. Order this twice and skip the chips

Mr Cooper's Manchester Mr Cooper's Manchester

Caramel Popcorn Tart (£8) left us agreeing that you'd be hard pressed to find tart pastry work any better than this.  As thin as paper, still with great shortness, texture and bite, filled with super rich caramel filling.  The popcorn added a bit of fun to the dish too. 

We'd noticed at the stage of the meal though, that nearly every dish had been served on something rare these days ; a plain white circular plate. No slate, stone-effect, black-mottled item.  It was refreshing to be honest, and only emphasised the Mr Cooper's ethos of refined yet informal. 

Kendal Mint Cake Brownie (£8) was a taste explosion of chocolate and superbly refreshing mint, garnished with a mint coated, dehydrated mint leaf.  That didn’t stop the dish looking a bit sloppy though, especially next to the delicate tart.  The portion size was monsterous too, and as tasty as it was, we struggled to finish it.  But we did, clearly.  Not as refined as you'd expect, but still super tasty.

Mr Cooper's Manchester

So, Mr Coopers hasn’t suffered from QHotels losing their Simon Rogan link, not at all. The cocktails are still out of this world, and the dining experience has kept its quality too, barring the chips but then they've never changed so clearly most punters are content with them.  Broadly, its business as usual in one of the city's best dining rooms, and without question one of the best bars in the region, and arguably the best 'informal fine dining' venue which we have.  Whatever that term means. ~ Sandra Handley, Restaurants Of Manchester Trusted Reviewer (Friday 17th March 2017)

3 stars
3 stars
3 stars
3 stars
3 stars 78%

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