Beef was the reason why I hit the road.
It only makes sense that the source of said beef should be the first port of call on my journey up North.
As a born and bred country lad, I’ve always had a lot of respect for farmers.
Many of my school friends came from farming families so I had the opportunity to spend time with livestock and appreciate the journey that they all make from birth to dinner plate. The responsibility of housing a hundred or so animals, in addition to looking after their welfare and health, is a big task and one that often requires an entire family’s worth of manpower to do.
Luckily, that’s just what the farmers at Darnford Farm have. The Watson Family, consisting of patriarch David, his two son and their wives, is a big one. They run over 400 cross suckler cows in addition to another herd of 25 pedigree Salers from their farm near Banchory.
When I was bored out of my mind, counting steaks in the walk-in refrigerator of the kitchen back in Cornwall, it was their steaks that I was counting. As much as I was losing motivation in my job at the time, it was always an absolute treat to slap one of their richly marbled, fresh sirloins down on to the griddle. After cooking up so many of them over the last year, I was excited to finally be meeting the men and women behind the wonderful meat that had gifted me with so many tips.
Of course you don’t get from Cornwall to Banchory (30 miles or so away from Aberdeen) without doing a lot of driving.
After saying my goodbyes to my team at the restaurant and my family, I jumped in the van and started the first leg of my trip up North. Nearly 700 miles stood between my home in Cornwall and the Watson’s farm – and I wasn’t about to do the whole thing in one day, so I’d planned a little stop off in Manchester first.
Scotland may well have been my main destination, but I’m glad I took it easy on the way up, it gave me plenty of time to check out a city that I’d not explored much before. Manchester is a massive place, full of museums and galleries. Of course, that’s not why I stopped by with an empty stomach and cash to burn.
Simon Rogan’s recently opened restaurant The French, at The Midland Hotel was my purpose for stopping off in Manchester.
Every chef has heard of Michelin Star winner Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume and the buzz for his reopening of one of Manchester’s most prestigious venues was promising. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint. The taster menu was wide and varied with everything from Asian Steamed Buns to Artichoke to Langoustine. Manchester is a city in search of a Michelin Star, perhaps next year it will finally receive one.
I was feeling flush with cash, so I only suffered a minor shudder of shock when I was given the bill after eating the thoroughly divine 9 course meal.