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Fraiche Reviewed By Gordo

The Fat One loves the Michelin standard food on windy Wirral

Written by . Published on February 12th 2014.


Fraiche Reviewed By Gordo
 

FRAICHE the Michelin one star restaurant on The Wirral, has a reputation of being a bit up its arse. 

When Gordo was boning up on the place it was easy to see why, particularly if you, like Gordo, take the time to read the rambling three thousand word bio on the restaurants web site; full of terms that the Confidential Editors wont allow (delicious, delight, dazzling) in our reviews. That website doesnt do the chef, Marc Wilkinson, any favours. 

Particularly when you get to the bit where Wilkinson compares himself to Dali. 

Yes, Salvador Dali.  

Beige Fraiche

 

Beige Fraiche

Yet several trusted sources other than Michelin have pushed Gordo to give it a try. After more reading, it started to look to Gordo that maybe there was more to this chef than meets the eye.  This man is anything but saccharin. 

He seems to have done the hard yards of working his way through the system, from washing up (so he could to buy a bike as a teenager) through being trained at a family run French restaurant in Yorkshire all the way to becoming the head chef at the Mirabelle in the Grand Hotel at Eastbourne. 

Not a dainty kitchen by all counts. 

Unlike a certain lunatic chef who will remain nameless, it was only after he knew his basics inside-out that he started to experiment with ‘modernist cuisine’ following a visit to one of Gordo’s favourite restaurants, Pierre Gagnaire in Paris. 

Today finds this chef in a small, smart but welcoming restaurant in Oxton, on the Wirral. The place is twenty-five minutes from Liverpool, maybe forty from Manchester.  

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

Oxton is in a conservation area and very pretty. Walk in through the front door and the room, along with the staff, gives a warm welcome; small, with less than twenty covers, its by no means crowded.  

Wilkinson gives diners plenty of space. In fact there are only fourteen covers. If Gordo were involved there would be twenty, in fact, throw out the Christmas tree on the pre-festive visit and another two could be added

Anyway, its a bit hushed and quiet. The couple on the next table, smartly dressed and in their early sixties, spoke quietly, but with cut glass accents that could  slice steel for battleships. It was not difficult to realise they were in the early stages of dating. Miriam was talking about ballet. 

The other tables mumbled along in twos and fours, most had started and were on their second or third courses. Gordo was beginning to agree the place was indeed all a bit arsey.  

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

Then, he ate a nut. 

This nut told Gordo everything he needed to know about the chef. This meal was going to be brilliant. 

It was a pecan nut, by the way. There were seven of them. 

Baked, one at a time, in Tinkerbelle's oven. She’d spent all afternoon painting them with ambrosia, sprinkling it with the spices she’d stolen from an incense-bearing tree in Kubla Khans gardens, close to that that sunless sea of his. 

Whether or not Gordo or the other guests were up their own arses wasnt the point. 

It was clear that Wilkinson, from this first offering, wasnt. 

The front of house comprised of two young, engaging, knowledgeable and funny professionals who clearly love what they are doing and hold the chef-patron in great esteem. They know their subject, Wilkinsons food, intimately. They have, by all accounts, refused all bribes to spill the beans on precisely how those nuts are made.  

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

Three fat olives arrived, along with two large, elegant glasses of Louis Roederer champagne (£10). They were in a bowl with a lid on. Take that off, and smoke wafted out. The olives soaked up the aroma, delivering more originality, matching the Roederer with its biscuit notes. 

Then came roasted foam oyster leaves, cockles and lastly mussels; just three porky ones, in half an inch of their own broth, tasting of the harbour wall in Honfleur. 

These three dishes came one after another, tasting individually brilliant but all part of a set. 

Did Gordo mention the bread and butter? Two different pats of butter, one of them made from goats cheese. The bread floated around the table, as if on a slow motion hovercraft. I challenge any restaurant anywhere in the world to do better.  

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

Then a brief interlude, where the best thing all night happened. 

Gordo was talking to the maître d’ about that Christmas tree. A couple of tables behind had fallen silent, listening to Gordo quietly going on with himself. The cut-glass accented Miriam was still on about the ballet, this time about the Russians, trying to score points. 

Then she farted. 

Loudly and clearly. 

It was several bangers of upper class boffs. The table of four across the way burst out laughing, Lottie Moore nearly wet herself, the Maître d’ just didnt know what to do and Gordo, always calm in a crisis, simply carried on whinging about the Christmas tree taking up space.

What seemed like five minutes of silence from the rest of the room was broken by the cut glass bloke. 

I think well just forget about that shall we?” 

Lottie spat a mussel across the floor. Gordos night was well and truly made. 

Onwards and upwards. 

Artichoke and hens egg with crispy chicken skin is marked in Gordos notes as the dish of the evening. Sea bass wasnt too shabby either, whilst the venison was wonderful. Gordo dislikes sous vide cooking with red meat. Apart, that is, from sweet, berry-noted loin of venison, a beast that probably did time in a royal park, gorging all autumn on hedgerow fruits. It was bloody wonderful. 

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

The puddings were overshadowed by all that had come before; they were good, but not great. A pre-dessert was messing about with nitrogen; a bit too much pussying aboutread Gordos notes. 

Marc Wilkinson needs to work further here; it seems to be missing texture, maybe he should be working, in deference to his French training, pastry into the set. Modernist cuisine tends to be a bit too refined when it comes to puddings, they aren't big on textures, with too much reliance on sugar. This needs to be more 'French'. 

Then the cheese is brought out. You chefs looking to win Michelin stars; take a look at this trolley. This is what the inspectors love. 

It is one of the four or five best trolleys the Fat One has had in his life, it equals Bocuse in Lyon and Moulin de Mougins above Cannes in its heyday twenty-five years ago. 

The Maître d’ went through each of the twenty-five on offer. We made our choice and they make a very pretty picture.  

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

Some chefs have taken to offering honey with the cheese. Wilkinson offers honey from-the-fucking-honey-comb with the cheese. 

In addition to the Roederer, Gordo hoovered up a bottle of Latricier Chambertin, a very sexy grand cru red burgundy, 2002, a 4 star vintage just opening out and showing glimpses of red silk underwear. Gloriously horny. Wilkinsons enthusiasm for getting it right shows no bounds, his wine list is exemplary. 

He describes his cuisine as French Contemporary. His classical French training has stood him in good stead. He doesn’t have an over-reliance on it, but his dalliance with modernist cuisine gives his food an edge that stands the experience apart from the other Michelin chefs here in the North West.  

Fraiche

 

Fraiche

He isnt better; just very original and striving to stand out. The Simon Radley complete experience at the Grosvenor is more luxurious, whilst Rogan is The Master; but, dear reader, a set menu for dinner at £65 from this feller is worth walking over hot coals for. 

The amazing thing, and why there are only twelve covers, is that Wilkinson is in that kitchen on his own. Just a KP helping. Gordo was gobsmacked when he was told. A truly remarkable set up.

I know you guys want to know. Nope, it didnt smell of roses. 

You can follow Gordo on Twitter here @gordomanchester

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

Fraiche, 11 Rose Mt, Prenton, Merseyside CH43 5SG.
0151 652 2914 

Rating: 18.5/20 (please read the scoring system in the box below, venues are rated against the best examples of their kind) 

Food:  9/10 (Nuts 10, Bread 10, Olives 8, Oyster 7.5, Cockles 9, Artichoke 10, Sea Bass 9, Venison 9.5, Desserts 7, Cheese 10)
Service: 5/5
Ambience: 4.5/5

PLEASE NOTE: 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, we get carried away.

 

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

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2014.

Pedant alert: 18.5 down to 17 if they cut back on cayenne?

1 Response: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 12th 2014.

You can't get the staff these days; Blakey is removing it...

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2014.

There's nothing I like more than a very pretty conversation area. Somewhere just to go and talk and, by the looks of things, have a nice bit of food.

AnonymousFebruary 12th 2014.

Still pissing myself over that trump.

AnonymousFebruary 13th 2014.

Brill place, girl with the cheese when asked if there was anything welsh on there, paused for a split second - 'the slate' - brilliant.

1 Response: Reply To This...
TimbucFebruary 13th 2014.

Excellent, I'd go just for that.

Charles CohenFebruary 13th 2014.

Gordo you're a gentleman. To ignore the fart and simply carry on with your conversation shows good breeding. Your manners are exquisite, unlike Miriam's dining companion, whose cut glass accent is clearly used to hide a lack of refinement.

Gordo Knows WhoFebruary 13th 2014.

Oxton is in a conversation area !!! try conservation

2 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialFebruary 13th 2014.

People talk about it all the time. Thanks

Mark GarnerFebruary 13th 2014.

Nice to see you paying attention Stephen! who's getting your attention these days?

Elizabeth CarmichaelFebruary 13th 2014.

Agree totally. Fabulous place. Totally inconspicuous entrance hiding treasures within. What a pity we still have to travel to experience Michelin Star cooking. Manchester still not managed it yet.

1 Response: Reply To This...
MaggieFebruary 13th 2014.

You can still enjoy Michelin star quality food, if not the label, at places like Aumbrey in Prestwich - unless it's just the label you are interested in.......

AnonymousFebruary 16th 2014.

Gordo, just tried to book a table on the strength of your review. It's booked solid every evening for the next 3 months. But determined to sample it and will keep trying!

2 Responses: Reply To This...
GordoFebruary 17th 2014.

anon, email salesATmanchesterconfidential.co.uk mark it for my attention, tell me when you want to go and Ill see if I can pull a few strings...

AnonymousFebruary 17th 2014.

Merci - very decent of you, will do!

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