63 Degrees in the Northern Quarter does French cooking, without becoming stuffy.
Start talking about temperature when it comes to making coffee, and pretty soon you’re in hot water. It seems that, aside from the beans and filter, a thermometer is the key ingredient for the ideal cup. Best brewed at 91-96 degrees, you have to knock off a whole thirty degrees, using milk, cold water or patience, before serving: your aim is 63 degrees, according to serious enthusiasts – and a rather fine restaurant in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The enterprise of the Parisian Moreau family, 63 Degrees is not just a business name, it’s a philosophy. But, as we discovered on our visit, this isn’t a place where strict, French tradition dictates stuffy, unforgiving food.
63 Degrees is not just a business name, it’s a philosophy
For a start, it has Actual Vegetarian Options. And not just a side salad served with a shrug; the menu is dotted with many a mini “v”. The restaurant’s signature temperature featured in the organic egg part of the Provençal ratatouille starter, the process saving the white from the rubbery bounce brought on by overcooking. The dish was, however, served cold – which, unlike revenge, didn’t feel like the best way. The unexpected texture of the egg (at not quite panna cotta consistency) was doubly curious when chilled, while the usual warm hug of ratatouille was more like a stand-offish wave. It felt almost as if we were being punished for ordering it.
The tomato gazpacho with goat’s cheese ice cream, on the other hand, made perfect temperature sense: tomatoes keep their earthly subtlety when not sweetened by heat, and frozen goat’s cheese becomes more wonderfully potent. A main of smoked tofu with shallots and pastry continued to impress – although listing it as a “shallot tatin” on the menu did it a disservice: as beautifully cooked shallots with thin, crispy pastry, it was superb. As a dense, luxurious tatin, it fell short. By contrast, the stuffed chicken cylinder and potato in puff pastry was a signature dish that bested all expectations: it was rich, even decadent thanks to its truffle sauce. The gooey chocolate fondant and sweet little pink praline tart desserts were also hard to beat.
While 63 Degrees could have erred into French pedantry, the fresh feeling menu – and the boudoir-esque décor, with what my mother would call “frilly-knicker flourishes” – keep it just on the not-too-serious side of fine dining. Supped alongside a great Chenin Blanc (the Samur Blanc 2011, if you’re curious), this is the kind of food that goes down just like that perfect cup of coffee.