Manchester is incredibly lucky to be attracting a chef of the calibre of Rogan – he is one of a group of chefs who is currently working to revive and redefine modern British food. At L’Enclume, his 2 Michelin star flagship restaurant in Cumbria, Rogan has combined a strong sense of place and connection to his environment with beautiful presentation and inventive flavours. A meal there is guaranteed to include many ingredients and herbs you have never heard of, combined in such a way that each component is allowed to shine. His food is so much more than the sum of its parts, and is made more special by its beautiful Cumbrian location, surrounded by his farms which supply the restaurant with interesting and rare produce. It has become something of a foodie pilgrimage destination, and people are willing to travel vast distances to eat there.
Rogan has already branched out to other parts of England, and in London opened a two year ‘pop-up’ called Roganic. I ate there last September, and was blown away by the amazing succession of tiny, perfectly-formed courses. The food was incredible, and the staff seemed almost like members of the cult of Rogan, they were so passionate about what they were serving and the ethos behind the meal. Nevertheless, they were willing to admit that for the full experience you needed to go to Cumbria and eat at L’Enclume. As brilliant as it was, Roganic was never going to be more than a spin-off, a reflection of Rogan’s talent but without the other elements that are so central to the experience of his food.
So what does this mean for Manchester? Rogan is opening two restaurants in the Midland Hotel, which has recently had a £400k makeover. The French will have 50 covers and is likely to be similar to Roganic, keeping true to the style of food at L’Enclume with many tiny and beautifully formed courses. Despite the name, it will serve exclusively British and local produce in a distinctively modern British style, and shows an exciting new direction in the Manchester food scene. I have written before questioning if Manchester is really an appropriate setting for Michelin-standard fussiness, but the French will certainly be a step in that direction, and is sure to be excellent.
The other restaurant will be a 150-seater that will be serving more casual, and not exclusively British, food. This will certainly be more affordable, but one wonders if Rogan’s style will translate, or if this will be more of a hotel restaurant capitalising on his celebrity. As of the 12th March Manchester will have two restaurants run by one of the best chefs in the country, and time will tell if Rogan will succeed in recreating the brilliance of his flagship restaurant, or if some part of the magic gets lost in translation.