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Chef Profile: Gareth Jones At Mr Cooper's

Ruth Allan talks to the man who makes Simon Rogan's food happen

Published on July 3rd 2014.


Chef Profile: Gareth Jones At Mr Cooper's
 

PROMOTION

IN many ways, Simon Rogan is the chef to work for in 2014. Alongside Noma’s Rene Renzepi, he’s one of the key players in fine dining, moving into the space alongside Blumenthal, Ramsey and Roux. He’s won Michelin stars, come out top of Good Food Guide and taken over the kitchens at Claridge's with his latest restaurant, Fera, which means ‘wild’ in Latin.

Image005Simon Rogan

But it’s to Mr Cooper’s Head Chef Gareth Jones' credit that he’s not phased by working with a modern-day legend. And between him and Rogan, they’ve come up with a menu boggling with options you’ll really want to eat.

The whole idea was to showcase Simon’s food in a more informal setting that people could visit once or twice a week if they wanted

Deceptively simple dishes like hyssop meatballs or pork chops with a sage crust have a classical background, and use many of the same techniques and recipes employed at Rogan's French restaurant, which is also in the Midland Hotel, and the two-Michelin-starred L’Enclume in Cartmel.

More often than not, there are just three flavours on the plate – beef, apricot, and cucumber in the case of the meatballs – but sourcing is immaculate. In fact, suppliers are one of the main links between Rogan’s restaurants, many of which share the same Cumbrian producers that the chef has worked with since launching L'Enclume in 2002.

“I always knew Simon wasn’t going to be standing behind me at the pass at every service,” Jones says. “But we work as a team. What usually happens is Simon gives me an idea of the recipes. I’ll play with them, prepare the dishes as I think they should be done and he’ll say, I like that, I don’t like that and we’ll work on them together. The actual ethos is his – but making sure that dish is the same every day of the week is down to me.”

Image004Caramelized Duck

Affordable luxuries like smoked eel torte with lovage and pork belly (£7.50) or duck caramelized with molasses sugar (£16.50) are something of a trademark style at Mr Cooper’s. They also nod to the fact that the restaurant is a one-off among the Rogan group. Jones says: “We’ve got an a la carte menu, whereas the French is a six or ten course tasting menu. But the main difference is that we use international inspirations on the dishes, whereas all of Simon’s other restaurants are British-produce led. They won’t use olive oil or chilli, whereas we will.”

Image004Smoked eel torte

Plants and herbs play their part in the light-clad restaurant too, which is named after the old house and garden that was built here in 1819. Cascading ferns and patio furniture make it feel like destination dining, while ‘library’ wallpaper depicting hundreds of leather bound tomes and sumptuous materials like brass lend a colonial vibe. It feels like strange and intriguing elements are creeping into a enclave of Englishness, shaking things up a bit.

Pda_130918-5754

Fans may recognise Jones from the BBC documentary series, Restaurant Wars, about the opening of the French. He’s the tough-looking dude, sweating it out in the kitchens. But you’d be sweating too, if you’d spent seven years under Simon Radley at the Chester Grosvenor and won two AA rosettes just months after opening Mr Cooper’s House at the Midland.

Jones was obviously delighted with two AA rosettes, and the team are keen to secure a third this year. The whole idea was to showcase Simon’s food in a more informal setting that people could visit once or twice a week if they wanted. It’s a job well done – and a unique offering for people looking to try Simon Rogan’s cooking at a fraction of the price you’d pay elsewhere. Lucky Manchester.

Learn more about Mr Cooper's House and Garden

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