63 Degrees, Manchester
In a world of bland, copy-cat chains, 63 Degrees is a rare thing: a genuine, franchise-free, family-owned French restaurant. The idea was born when Alex Moreau, son in the father-son venture, came to live in Manchester and spotted the city was decidedly short on decent French food. Before long, he had persuaded his father, experienced Parisian chef Eric Moreau, to leave France and join him in bringing a taste of Paris to the Northern Quarter.
The 63 Degrees name comes from the special cooking technique developed by Eric Moreau: after years of experimentation, he has found 63 degrees to be the perfect slow cooking temperature for poultry. The restaurant’s small size (it seats fewer than 40); simple but stylish decor, and friendly staff combine to create a calming atmosphere that helps you unwind as soon as you walk through the door.
The modern French menu brings together traditional and innovative elements to provide an enticing range of flavour-rich dishes. There’s also an extensive choice of daily specials. Food is fresh, seasonal, and, where possible, locally-sourced.
Flavours are robust and beautifully balanced. Marrying minted, creamed peas with a saffron-glazed giant prawn, Eric’s pea cream starter has already found a Manchester fan base. Other flavour-rich appetisers include snails in garlic butter and chestnut cappuccino with beech smoked duck, and baked eggs with Scottish salmon.
Moving on to the main course, the signature cooking technique is evident in both the 63° chicken breast with morel mushroom sauce and gratin dauphinois, and the 63° duckling fillet with fruits and caramelised chicory. Fish dishes are also a strong feature on the menu: salmon with black risotto and parsley foam sits between pan-fried scallops, quinoa and rocket cream and line-caught yellowfin tuna with bearnaise sauce and potato puree. The pan-fried pumpkin with crisp wild mushroom wafer makes an attractive vegetarian option.
Dessert treats include a delectable pineapple upside-down tart, a delicate pistachio macaroon with raspberry, and, of course, a classic crème brulee.
A specialist wine list supplements the house favourites, and includes carefully-selected Saint Emilion, Saint Estephe and dessert wines
Starters cost £6 – £8, main courses £12 – £24.
The set lunch menu offers either a starter and a main course or a main and a desert, for £18. The quick lunch is also a good bet: light salads, fluffy omelettes and satisfying club sandwiches. Eric’s passion for robust flavour combinations is apparent here too – menu items include smoked salmon, shallots, rocket and capers sandwiches, and parsnip, courgette, carrot and coriander hummus omelette.
And for a special Sunday treat, the French Brunch looks as if it could take some beating. Patisserie, cheeses, scrambled eggs, bacon, jams, crepes, ice creams, pancakes and breads, with unlimited free tea and coffee at £19 a head.
The 63 Degrees team know exactly what they want to achieve: Fine French food, Parisian style, and a warm welcome. It should prove to be a winning combination – and all within a few minutes’ walk of both Piccadilly and Victoria stations.