Fera at Claridge’s, Mayfair

Simon Rogan may not have received a star for his Manchester culinary triumph, The French, but his prestigious new London eatery, Fera, was awarded the accolade within weeks of opening. Housed in the iconic Claridges Hotel, it is surprisingly daring considering the traditional clientele who frequent this establishment.

Rogan first made an impact on the food scene with his 2 star restaurant L’Enclume in the Cumbrian village of Cartmel, an eatery that introduced us to the chef’s clever cuisine inspired by nature. The French is similar in style, offering innovative food presented in unusual ways.

Fera is latin for wild but, located within the beautifully redesigned art deco dining room at Claridge’s, it is quite the opposite: pristine and organised with a bare tree construction branching out in the centre of the room. In his food however Rogan tames the wild wonders of the garden and pairs the delicate and sometimes obscure flavours with meat and fish cooked to perfection.

I began with one of the delightful seasonal cocktails, it was a lovely shade of pink, a carefully combined mix of pear juice, fig-infused vodka, spiced wine and fennel seed spray. An ideal aperitif to sip whilst nibbling the amuse-bouche. In due course homemade warm malty bread arrived at the table with a dish of whipped caramelised butter.

The lunch menu for the day featured:

To start:

Smoked Bantam yolk, salt-baked kohlrabi, cavolo nero, Isle of Mull, truffle

Beetroot with fresh cheese, chicory brined in dill, pickled pear and horseradish

Main Course:

Reg’s guinea hen, salt-baked celeriac, buttered kale, cider sauce

Roasted plaice with purple sprouting, new potatoes, seaweed sauce

Dessert:

Chocolate cream, apple marigold, shortbread and rapeseed jam

Bramley apple cake, praline ice cream and chestnut

The dishes were beautifully arranged, plates of contrasting colours, textures and shapes, Rogan challenges the diner with unlikely flavour pairings. The Beetroot was a delectable treat, soft and sweet with vinegary and crunchy chicory and indulgent cheese. Smoked Bantam yolk shone marigold orange from the centre of the plate, strewn with greens and an almost tart milky sauce with a luxurious hint of truffle.

Desserts were conservative in size, and my Bramley apple cake tasted almost too healthy for a Michelin meal; light and refreshing with a sharp apple taste and creamy ice cream, shavings of chestnut on top. I thought the cake was most impressive, a dense but spongey texture packed full of flavour. I barely got to taste the chocolate dish, it was polished off pretty quickly, a dollop of silky chocolatey cream and vibrant citrus and biscuit crumbs, the perfect conclusion to the meal for sweet toothers.

A meal for two at Fera will cost you a hefty £300, but visit at lunchtime and you can taste Rogan’s revelatory cooking for just £30 a head. You will experience three courses, as imaginative as the a la carte but lighter and smaller, so you won’t feel weighed down all day. I can’t think of a better Michelin lunch deal in London.

More information and book a table at Fera here.

The Midland Hotel, Manchester

When I was at university in Manchester there was never much need to take notice of the hotels around town. The Midland however, is a difficult establishment to miss. Opened in September 1903 it was built by the Midland Railway as convenient accommodation for those coming into the northern terminus from London St. Pancras. The hotel is very central near to many of Manchester’s key attractions and concert venues and just half a mile from the main Manchester Piccadilly train station.

The Midland certainly has some stature from the street, with over 300 rooms the hotel is ideal for big business groups or wedding parties. The entrance is grand but old fashioned with fading décor, patterned carpet and a giant bouquet of flowers dominating the lobby. There was a lot of activity in this communal area, guests drinking at the bar and milling around the restaurants getting ready for a night out in town.

After a short lift ride and walk down a long corridor, we reached our room, a lovely spacious suite. The room was decorated in muted shades, a dark beige carpet, olive green velvet sofas and maroon and ochre cushions and blanket on the bed. Behind the bed was an intriguing glass dome illustration, that added colour to the bedroom. Everything we needed for a weekend away could be found within our room: a desk, a mirrored wardrobe, even a shirt press. In the living room area we could sit and relax whilst reading the magazines (This is Manchester, The Sunday Times Travel, and Homes & Gardens) arranged for us to enjoy. A basic coffee machine and small minbar was also on hand.

The bathroom was clean and well equipped, a big bath-shower surrounded by glittering black mosaic tiles with Pecksniff’s Mood Therapy toiletries lined up ready to use. Huge, thick towelling robes were a comforting extra. I found everything extremely comfortable, and though the design wasn’t completely to my taste, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the incredibly indulgent bed.

With the recent arrival of famed chef Simon Rogan, the Midland has a new culinary appeal. Rogan has taken control of both the restaurants on site: casual eatery Mr Cooper’s House and Garden and the prestigious The French. As the first fine dining experience of its kind in Manchester, The French has brought prestige and excitement to The Midland.

Those wishing to use the hotel for leisure or meetings will be delighted with the options: 14 conference rooms, a gym, a pool and a squash court, there is no requirement they can’t meet.

More information on The Midland hotel here.

Many thanks to Manchester Tourist Board for their help with this trip, more information here.

Thoroughly Modern Milly travelled with Virgin Trains.

Typical journey time between London and Manchester is just 2h 7m on one of the state-of-the-art tilting trains, six days a week. Engineering works slow things down a little on Sunday mornings, but by lunchtime they’re operating services – at 2h15m – just a shade slower than Monday to Saturday. Trains every 20 minutes, six and a half days a week.

Booking in advance and travelling off-peak is the best way to get great deals – including some fantastic First Class bargains. Single fares start at: Advance Standard £12.50  and Advance First £38.00, book here.