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63 Degrees, New French Restaurant, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield likes the cultured yet robust charm of this place

Published on November 6th 2011.


63 Degrees, New French Restaurant, Reviewed

WHAT 63 Degrees does best is confidence. It delivers a short French menu with skill and flair in an understated yet distinctive space of around 35 covers.

There's such a clear commitment to quality at 63 Degrees, and the delivery of good food with a good experience (wine-gaffe aside), that you can't help but want to come back again.

The quiet assurance starts with Alex Moreau, the restaurant manager and director, who escorts you to the table, with a gentility that is immediately calming. He puts you in the mood for good food and that's the best entrée for any restaurant visit. 

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Alex is supported in the kitchen by his dad Eric, a chef with previous two star Michelin experience, who has upped sticks from Paris with his wife, Florence, to live in Chorlton and cook at 63 Degrees. If there are any more good Parisian chefs out there wanting to follow in his footsteps please feel free.

The menu reads beautifully and looks like a poem in three verses: eight staters, eight mains, eight desserts. 

I've had a go at several of the starters: snails in parsley butter, pan-fried ratte potatoes and young greens (six snails for £7, twelve for £11); pea cream with mint, giant prawn with saffron (£7) and baked eggs with salmon (£5.80). 

I can't fault any of these but I can find delight in each.

The bite and crunch of the snails, the sudden vision you get of walking through autumn beechwoods in drifts of fallen leaves is intense, and enhanced by the nuttiness of ratte potatoes.

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The baked eggs cooked en cocotte, in otherwords in an earthenware pot, is again perfect for autumn, with an egg that breaks and runs through the fish delivering a delicious goo in which the individual elements can be easily identified. 

Apparently cocotte is French slang for prostitute. There's nothing wrong paying for the affections of this cocotte.

French 024

The pea cream prawn dish is a thing of beauty. It's our photo star at the top of this page. The balance and the lightness provides the appeal. The giant prawn glazed in a sticky saffron and dipped in the pea cream and mint delivers different textures, which with the seafood hidden in the bottom third of the dish, adds weight. This and the iron tang of the water cress turns food which could be good looking but insubstantial, into something of substance. Maybe a tad more seasoning in the pea cream wouldn't have gone amiss. 

Two mains have crossed my path at 63 Degrees.

The 63 degree chicken breast, morel mushroom sauce and gratin dauphinois at £14.80, and the 63 degree duckling fillet with fruits and chicory at £16.

The 63 degree business is all about the low temp Eric Moreau chooses to cook his fowl in. He thinks it allows all the good juices and minerals in the meat and bones to infuse the flesh with extra flavour.

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It seemed to work with the chicken, certainly there was a complexity to the white meat which was novel, although I wonder whether a bit of mind over matter wasn't at play here. Did I want it to taste better given all the 63 degree palaver? 

What couldn't be argued is that the morel mushroom sauce was one of the best things I've tasted in months. Again beautifully balanced with the main event, the mushroom, having a prune consistency but with a strong fungus kick.

You could say that after the prostitute it made me feel very morelistic.

I've had the dauphinoise twice with this dish, the second time was perfect, the first time creamy perfection too, but presented way too hot.

The duckling was a delight, with chicory arranged like the primary feathers on an eagle's wing. Bunch the meat (beautifully pink) on the fork with the chicory, and some of that fruit reduction, and this was another hit.

There was a very lot of chicory though; more than enough to take into the Unicorn pub next door and deal it.

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Desserts feature macaroons. Marcaroons have overtaken cup cakes in the world of top ten tasty sweet-nothings.

Here's a picture of the pistachio macaroon and raspberry pulp (£6) - if they're your thing. Looks like weird set of bloodied false teeth. They are categorically not my thing.

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So I had the upside-down pineapple tart (£6), cooked in a tin, face down and then turned over and served. This was the real deal. Sweet pastry under tart and lovely fruit with a gorgeous ice cream and chocolate stick whatnot. It was gobbled without a trace.

French 029

Next time though it's got to be the selection of French matured cheeses at £6.50. That looks splendid.

Moreau_Jeanne
The wine list has some entires I've not seen regularly in Manchester. The Chateau Caronne St Gemme Cru Bourgeois, Haut Medoc, 2006, (£32) was only outdone by the length of its title. This was smoky and sophisticated. It made me recall another Moreau - aside from the family running 63 Degrees. I'd been racking my brains, but the wine put me in mind of Jeanne Moreau in the movie Jules et Jim. Sassy woman, I bet she'd have liked this. 

It was at the moment of wine reveal that the waiter let 63 Degrees down. He showed me the bottle and then poured half the thing into the glasses without giving anybody a chance to taste it, he almost slapped it on the bottom like a ketchup bottle. He was a nice man generally but as he skipped away I could have kicked him. He'd treated my wine like a cocotte.

Apparently Alex has had words. Good. Because this place is a little winner and should give Manchester a lot of pleasure if it irons out such small examples of nonsense.

There's such a clear commitment to quality at 63 Degrees, and the delivery of good food with a good experience (wine-gaffe aside), that you can't help but want to come back again.

The interior reflects the food and drink, simple almost, but enhanced with a quiet glamour in the feature walls and the booths. Linen tablecloths would make this an even better place in which to sit.

As we waited for our main course on our first visit, Eric Moreau, viewed two dishes on the pass - the shelf where the food is checked before leaving the kitchen. An impressive middle-aged man with longish grey hair and spectacles, he studied the food thoughtfully and then gave a business-like nod.

Made me feel good somehow. It's all about confidence and knowing what you want to achieve.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. £1000 to the reader who can prove otherwise, and dismissal for the staff member who wrote a review scored out of twenty on a freebie from the restaurant.

63 Degrees
20 Church Street, 
City, M41PN, 0161 832 5438

Rating: 16.25/20
Food: 8.75/10
Service: 3.5/5
Ambience: 4/5

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away.

 

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28 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Clive JonesNovember 7th 2011.

This is a really good addition to the city centre. Heartily recommended.

MMNovember 7th 2011.

Yes, I agree. And the review is right. 63 Degrees just needs to tighten up on a few service points and also definitely should get the linen on the tables.

The Laughing PolicemanNovember 7th 2011.

'You could say that after the prostitute it made me feel very morelistic.' I vote this the best fungus joke of the month. Although it's early days yet in November.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 10th 2011.

Button it you!!!

RayNovember 7th 2011.

(My comments below were on the other article - moved here as more relevant)

I dined there last Friday afternoon. Décor is clean and simple with warm exposed brickwork. Decent layout. Enticing menu - I had the steak (£24), cooked very well indeed (very rare to blue, as requested, with spot on caramelisation of the exterior) with superb dauphinoise potatoes. They really are very good indeed. My friend had the chicken with an excellent mushroom sauce. A side of fries was slightly soggy. Good sourcing of ingredients, and the scallops are hand dived, not trawled (which is EVIL) but this is not apparent from the menu. The dishes are fully priced - this is not a cheap place - but fairly so.

The wine list is adequate (3 white, 3 red, one bubbly by the glass), and would be perfectly reasonable in a simpler restraurant, but the pricing and scope of the list sits uneasily with the ambition of the food. Why are there 3 sauvignon blancs (of 7 white wines)? Why in God's name is there an Italian Pinot Grigio? An Alsace pinot gris would be more in keeping. Not a single white burgundy! The wines are (2002 Dom Perignon at a reasonable £140 notwithstanding) unprepossessing, and with such enticing meat dishes to hand, I really would have preferred a more serious top red than the 2006 Caronne St Gemme (£32) - a nice little drop, but that's it. Finally, I could not find a dessert wine. Odd.

It's too early to comment on the service (which needs refining ) but it's a very friendly place, still quiet at the moment, and it has promise. I'll be back (but will thrash out a corkage deal so I can give the food a deserving match) as this place deserves the chance to evolve and prosper.

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 7th 2011.

Ray, no doubt this is because SB and Pinot Grigio are popular and restaurants need to make money on their wines. As their just starting out might be a bit expensive to begin with a 50 bin cellar of top class claret too.

RayNovember 7th 2011.

Yes, but you don't need three SBs - 43% of the white wine list made up of this grape type.

No need for 50 top class clarets, but a slightly greater range of wine would do no harm. To have the top wine costing little more than a main course is daft. I'd like to see a further 10 wines or so at the higher end, perhaps on a sparate list until they gauge demand (Luso did this).

AlaneseNovember 7th 2011.

And look what happened to Luso, Ray. Prudence is perhaps the best policy to start with.

AnonymousNovember 7th 2011.

because SB and Pinot Grigio are fashionable and restaurants need to sell drinks to make money. A case of practicality coming first and a ballenced wine list coming second. Perhaps in time when they have more money the list will expand.

FoodographicNovember 7th 2011.

'The bite and crunch of the snails'? You're not supposed to eat the bloody shells Jonathan.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldNovember 8th 2011.

You're right. I also like the bite and crunch of the crockery as well. Although that is hard to digest.

AnonymousNovember 7th 2011.

I ate here on Saturday. Duck followed by the chocolate tart special dessert. The duck didn't have an instant wow but actually became more enjoyable the further into the dish and the combination of the fruit and the slight bitterness of the chicory is the sign of an intelligent chef at work. The tart was truly first class.
The addition of linen would make a real difference. The food and set-up is a cut above and linen would reflect that.
I'd echo the comments about the wine list which I expected to be a bit more interesting and not having any dessert wines is odd, but the owner said he was expecting some soon.
But the headline is Manchester has a family run French restaurant with a gem of a menu and that means a three line whip to go and spend your money there instead of some bollocks ersatz franchise place where the staff have no real interest in making you happy. Use it or lose it!

Andy LoynesNovember 8th 2011.

"Morelistic" Groan.

Aside from that, looks an interesting addition

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 8th 2011.

Might have to give this a go, sounds like a good addition to Manchester

Will have to go some way to beat my new favourite haunt, the Freemasons Arms in Clitheroe, that place is addictive

Notwithstanding, I doth my (brown) cap to Man Con on reporting on this new venture, I detest all these shit(take) pseudo french restaurants with nothing but a bland franchise for an excuse, I'm glad 63 did not Blewit

Is a Fungal Joke of the month award ;-)

GadgeNovember 9th 2011.

"Looks like weird set of bloodied false tea."
Teeth?

Jonathan SchofieldNovember 9th 2011.

Gadge. Indeed. Changed. Thanks

ShuttyNovember 9th 2011.

I've got a really good (IMHO) photo of mushrooms that I took in Withington yesterday. You know the red ones with white spots. I would post it, or use it as my profile pic if only I knew how.

Sounds like a good addition for my next evening meal in the city!

Chris BamfordMarch 3rd 2012.

We ate here for the first time last night. They now have table cloths! The food was amazing, we had snails, cauliflower soup with and egg yolk that had been cooked at 63˚ for 6 hours - incredibly soft and delicious. Chicken that genuinely does taste better slow cooked, and a Fillet Steak Bernaise... all of which was fab... star of the show though is the delicious dauphinoise. Pud was ganache and the macaroon with which we had the dessert wines. All in all with a bottle of sancere and a gin to start with came in at about £130... so its not cheap. But it was a lovely dining room, the ambiance was lovely and all the staff were courteous, respectful and showed just the perfect amount of attention. Would go again. Closer to payday.

Valerie EvansMay 15th 2012.

I ate here with colleagues from work we were all very disappointed with the service of the maitre d' and the choice of food ,We will not be returning .

James KayJune 26th 2012.

Beautiful food, but £9.50 for one Scallop sliced into 4 discs left me feeling a little shafted! The chap on the next table had it too, so it wasn't just a one-off. It looked nothing like the dish provided to Mancon on Gordo's article of today.

Rob BrannanJuly 21st 2012.

A quality French fine dining establishment and welcome addition to Manchester City Centre. Highly recommended for those who don't mind paying a premium for quality food, wine and service.

1 Response: Reply To This...
ThebartenderAugust 29th 2012.

quality service? the old waitress (the mom i suppose) did not have a clue about wine. i asked for a full bodied wine to go with the fillet and she offered me a young pinot noir (the menu said light, juicy and lots of strawberries). i went for the malbec instead. A bit of staff training would be adequate to justify those prices.

Simon TurnerJuly 25th 2012.

When a place is as expensive as this I go once a year. 15% cheaper I'd probably go four times a year. 25% cheaper, I'd be there every month. It's a shame I live in the real world. I could become a regular customer but it's too expensive for regular dining.

IanJuly 27th 2012.

I e-mailed some constructive feedback and received no response.

Will go again shortly though as the meal was very good.

pollolocoAugust 1st 2012.

Has anyone checked out the recent revue in the Observer? It seems that Gordo added his 2 peneth worth and was verbally rodgered senseless by those pseudo intellectualls down sarf!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoAugust 1st 2012.

I was trying to keep that quiet, Pollo, my arsehole is two inches wide at the moment. I don't need you lot joining the spelling police.

pollolocoAugust 2nd 2012.

it's the school holidays Gordo...those twats have nowt better to do!

Jamie PittNovember 5th 2012.

I dined at 63 degrees at the weekend and so wanted it to live up the expectations I'd talked myself into believing, sadly the food and service missed the mark on several occasions.

Upon arrival we were told the cloak room was full and would we mind hanging our coats on the back of the chairs.. not an outrageous request but nonetheless not a warm and welcoming start.

We then tried to order wine, a bottle of pinot noir which was unfortunately sold out. We plumped instead for a rather good malbec, although more expensive. Which seemed to have been forgotten about until we gently reminded the waiter.

From ordering, the starters then took the wrong side of 30 minutes to arrive. Fortunately the company I was keeping that night kept me entertained and the wait didn't seem unbearable. The restaurant that night was full but instead of a jovial and buzzing atmosphere the staff dashing about gave it a stressed and rushed and at time chaotic feeling.

The food overall was good.

My starter of snails was a delicious perfectly sized portion of well cooked snails with big hits of garlic and parsley accompanied with ratte potatoes. My only advice would be to lay off the pre packed salad leaves nesting on top of the dish. They dont add anything to the taste or look. My fellow diners ordered scallops which were plump juicy and well seasoned.

For mains I opted for the monkfish with mash potatoes and chorizo. In parts this was a lovely dish but with huge disproportions, either the fish needed to bigger or less mash needs adding. 50% of my main meal was a rather nice mash potato with a rather unpleasant thin veal jus which suffered a severe acrid aftertaste. Also, one slice of chorizo seemed a little mean for £22. Im told the beef fillets were perfectly cooked but again garnished with a rather uninspiring handful of tesco salad leaves.

We ordered one of each side to accompany the mains but we again became a victim of stock mismanagement, this times the kitchen had sold out of chips - usually not a problem but we were only informed of the shortfall upon arrival of the mains which didnt allow us enough time to increase our orders of alternative sides to compensate. The mixed salad leaves side was also a let down, turning out to be again plain pre packed looking salad leaves dressed in olive oil.. a little cheese, fruit or vegetable peelings would have been nice..

The cheese and port dessert and chocolate trio were both on point and didn't disappoint.

At nearly £270 for 4 without tip I didnt leave cheated but instead disappointed that another manchester restaurant hasnt quite hit the mark... I will be back though, just not on a Saturday night.

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