This hotel bar and restaurant remains a calming bolthole from city life, says Jonathan Schofield
I’ve always liked Mr Cooper's, and not just for food. The bar - at the front west side of the Midland Hotel - provides a fine bolthole after work or between jobs. That high ceiling and the sense of space is particularly calming. The bar staff also do a cracking Bloody Mary, should a hangover be keeping you company.
It was opened five years ago by ‘celebrity chef’ Simon Rogan as a more casual dining alternative to the formality of The French in the Midland. Surly Simon has since run back to his mountain fastness of Cartmel, so there have been changes.
The good news at Cooper’s is that the small plates are put together with considerable skill
The recently relaunched restaurant has let its hair down, dropped the 'House & Garden' bit and relaxed. Not in the decor, mind, which remains the same, but in the menu. This has grills, bowls and small plates.
Of course it does.
Small plates of food are now ubiquitous. Time was when a tall Lancastrian chap like myself wouldn’t have put up with it. We wanted plates of food as big as elephants’ feet. Now it’s all small plates or sharing platters. I suppose travel and familiarity with the richness of global flavours encourages the small plate approach, plus the fact, perhaps, we are cultivating the attention span of gnats and simply don’t have the staying power for the grand a la carte.
The good news at Cooper’s is that the small plates are put together with considerable skill. The gin-cured salmon, fennel and grapefruit (£6) was a characterful number with a soft/hard contrast of fish and fennel.
The cauliflower and cumin fritters with lime yoghurt (£4) were delicious oddities, the buttermilk tiger prawns, kimchi and crème fraîche (£6) might have been good-looking, but were bland.
An excellent Jerusalem artichoke soup, spiced chestnuts and thyme (£5.50) restored us to good quality, along with the pan-fried chorizo balls (£6), pulled pork and apple croquettes (£4) and Padron peppers (£3.50).
We also enjoyed a larger plate of whole lemon sole, broccoli, cubed chorizo and capers (£13). Aside from the broccoli, which was as tough as quantum physics, this was a sweet number with the capers and sole combining well. The dessert of clementine, pomegranate and pistachio meringue (£5.50) was utterly delicious, a delightful and artful finale.
Mr Cooper’s new menu works well. It’s not as innovative as the previous incarnation but you can see the logic in the restaurant trying to widen its appeal. If you want plenty of flavours, handsome food, and variety in your dishes then the place makes for a good choice.
What always remains is the comforting scale and space of the bar and dining area. I’ll continue to use it as a bolthole, now with the option of nibbling on the new menu. I expect I’ll still enjoy the occasional Bloody Mary too, because I expect to be in the company of one of two more hangovers.
Mr Cooper's, The Midland Hotel, Peter St, Manchester M60 2DS. Tel: 0161 235 4781
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidential and completely independent of any commercial relationship. Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you're passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
(pulled pork croquettes 6.5, cauliflower fritters 7, tiger prawns 6, salmon 8, soup 8, chorizo balls 7, peppers 7, sole 6.5, meringue 8)