Meal at Fraiche

Meal at Fraiche

at Fraiche on 3 August 2017
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22

I really wasn’t expecting what we experienced here.  Rarely do I get that “I’ve just found something special” feeling but I know this to be the case when you are leaving a venue and genuinely puzzled to not recall anything that wasn’t superb.  As a summary, the two-man team that served the 3 tables on our visit produced a personalised experience of obvious quality and care, combined with utterly superb flavour combinations in a unique setting.  This was in fact, the find of the year for me and on every level, was a sheer delight.  With the exception of barely one or two venues, I would rather go back to Fraiche than any other restaurant in the UK at time of writing and this is surely the key.

The restaurant is a stylishly converted living room with a lovely conservatory back area that looks directly in to the kitchen.  The whole interior holds a bespoke format for visual effects and lighting, especially for the end of the meal and as you enter, immediately on the walls are large, digital film projections in the holding area as a bespoke touch.  The general thing that impressed me the most was the fact that the owners will not compromise on squeezing in more tables if they cannot guarantee the high standards that they wish to maintain and that says a great deal to me.

The restaurant is a stylishly converted living room with a lovely conservatory back area that looks directly in to the kitchen.  The whole interior holds a bespoke format for visual effects and lighting, especially for the end of the meal and as you enter, immediately on the walls are large, digital film projections in the holding area as a bespoke touch.  The general thing that impressed me the most was the fact that the owners will not compromise on squeezing in more tables if they cannot guarantee the high standards that they wish to maintain and that says a great deal to me.

On to the meal and this began with nibbles of pecan nuts coated with a series of spices and caramelised sugars with perfect textural crunch (just soft enough).  Although simple nuts, I would say these were actually the nicest nuts I have ever had and worthy of comment in themselves.  An opener of gooseberry foam was served as the welcome which was light and enjoyable, followed by the first course of Nordic smoked salmon with bergamot, pineapple and almonds.  This salmon starter was sublime, plain and simple with freshness of ingredients all working beautifully together.

Next up was tempura battered pickled courgette flower with carrot, cauliflower and goats curd and was an absolute stunner – perfect balance of pickle with just the right amount of goats curd to soften this element (and vice versa) all around a large, delicate tempura crisp.  The mushroom butter that was served for the brioche was frankly the nicest butter I have had in a very long time and was a triumph of a dish.  It was also served with a cep surprise which was a mushroom ‘shell’ (which had consistency similar to thin chocolate) with liquid mushroom inside.  This was followed by the purest tomato starter with strawberry, pickled strawberry, smoked tomato, nasturtium leaves, basil oil, feta, tomato consommé & tomato mousse.  One negative on this dish was the liquids made the biscuit base soggy towards the end, but it was otherwise a perfect collection of flavours.

The breads came in the form of granary with treacle, tomato with cheese, fennel and seaweed, all beautifully cooked.  It was also nice to see a venue give the option of classic olive oil (from Spain) as well as slightly salted butter to accompany the breads.  These was followed by turbot with pea puree, fennel smoked yoghurt and sea herbs (incl samphire) which was interesting, new and a delight at the same time, served with perfectly cooked (hay smoked) baby charlotte potatoes with lime butter.  However, the explosions came thick and fast at the arrival of the Guinea Fowl which was served with potato crisp, barbequed artichoke heart, crispy cabbage puree, variants of mushroom and shallots.  All of these components worked superbly together and I have simply never had thigh of game so immaculately and deliciously done like this before.  There was general consent at the table (of three diners) that this was the finest version of game ever had.

A take on lemon meringue pie came in the form of nitro-poached mascarpone mousse placed on a spoon already prepared with lemon gel and thin crust of pastry which came next as the first palate cleanser.  Whilst I have had this type of interlude at The Fat Duck (the inventor of this method I believe) and Ynyshir Restaurant and Rooms in their varied forms, the thing I liked about this version at Fraiche was the fact that portion size was good (not too big a mouthful to contend with) and we were advised to leave the poached spoonful for 10 seconds to prevent a cold ‘burn’ on the inside of the mouth – simple, good advice(!).  Grapes then arrived at the table as another palate wash with the added twist that they were fizzy inside!  I presume that these were injected with the same, fizzy sake that was served with them and made such a fun course to have – something I certainly have never had before.  The sake was a little too sour for my taste, but I could see how this was acting a contrast to the sweet grapes themselves.  Lemon grass panna cotta with sour cherry foam and brick pastry followed which was delightful (and pastry that was mercifully not too hard).

Dessert options were given in the form of either savoury or sweet – the savoury being cheese and the sweet being a traditional dessert (in this case strawberry).  Both were opted for by the table and the cheese was a particular highlight of the whole meal.  An extremely knowledgeable floor manager took us through the selections and there was an accompanying supplement to go with each cheese chosen (depending on which ones opted for).  These included pistachio powder, pickled blueberries, vanilla, compressed prune & date, pear jam and compressed fig.  A whole honey comb was also brought to the table to be scraped fresh off the slab for one of the cheeses as well.  The triple butter cheese in particular was just outstanding, so much so that another piece was requested after.  The strawberry dessert (including white chocolate, lemon verbena, compressed strawberry, bitter strawberry and strawberry sorbet) was, whilst not the dish of the meal, still pleasant in itself and well presented.  Petits fours were served in the holding area with softened mood lighting effects and not one was unenjoyable.  Finally, all enjoyed the take away bag of muesli to have in the morning to perk up for the day as a final, nice touch.

So, the overall verdict of this venue from myself is that it was one of the best food experiences I have had in the UK and great value for what it was – £85 for the masterly tasting menu of 15 courses and a mere £45 for the matching wine flight of impressive and enjoyable selections which, for a Michelin starred venue is actually fantastic value comparatively.  The only negative of the experience I would say is that our reservation was for 7pm and the front door was locked until exactly 7pm which meant that we had to go in to another bar having arrived 5 mins before, then getting a little concerned at 10 minutes past the hour that we would be holding the service back after being late (some establishments can officially cancel your booking if you are more than 20 mins late).  Having the doors open slightly earlier would arguably be better on this point but this is a small aspect and thankfully the establishment was completely ok with the delay.

The final, interesting thing I reflect on is the definition of what a 3 Michelin starred venue is: “Exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.  Now, although the average level of visual and technical finesse in 3 Michelin starred venues is generally higher than that seen at Fraiche, I would say that the food on this menu comfortably knocks many 2 and 3 Michelin starred menus (that I have had) out of the park on overall flavours, fun and balance of menu.  And whilst I would place Fraiche comfortably akin to the 2 Michelin starred family myself (a considerable well-done tick here), interestingly, it can arguably be sat within the actual 3 Michelin star definition as I would happily make a deliberate journey from London to Liverpool just to go back to this restaurant – ergo, making it worthy of a special journey.

All in all, throughout all my travels for 2017 so far, this is the find of the year for me.  Expect to plan long in advance for a booking here and I now appreciate why this is the case.

https://major-foodie.com/fraiche-birkenhead/
https://instagram.com/richardbagnold

9 / 10

Fraiche entrance

Conservatory / backroom dining area

iPad menu

Pecan nuts with spices and caramelised sugar

House champagne

Gooseberry foam amuse bouche

Leaflet 1 provided at the table

Leaflet 2 provided at the table

Leaflet 3 provided at the table

Nordic smoked salmon

House sherry

Courgette flower with tempura batter and goats curd

Dessert wine paired with brioche and mushroom butter

Brioche with mushroom butter

Mushroom butter

Cep parcels

Tomato and strawberry consommé

Home made breads

Spanish olive oil

Lightly salted butter

Chardonnay paired with turbot

Turbot with pea and smoked yoghurt

Hay smoked charlotte potatoes with lime butter

Pairing for Guinnea Fowl

Loire Valley Guinea Fowl with hipsi cabbage and mushroom

Nitro poached mascarpone mousse

Lemon meringue pie – nitro poached mascarpone mousse served on top of lemon gel and thin pastry

Fizzy grapes

Sake paired with fizzy grapes

Lemon grass panna cotta

Crackers for cheese

English and French cheeses

Honeycomb supplement to cheese

Cheeses as served

Dessert wine for dessert

Strawberry dessert

Extra portion of triple buttered cheese

Friache restaurant at latter part of evening

Almond cakes

Petit fours (1)

Petit fours (1)

Going away present of muesli

The dinner bill for 3