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11 Rose Mount, Oxton
“Fraiche just keeps getting better every time”, enthuses a fan of this pint-sized gem tucked away on a quiet suburban street in the pretty Wirral village of Oxton. For chef/proprietor Marc Wilkinson, this is a single-minded labour of love – from the specially commissioned glass sculptures in the four-table “nature-influenced” dining room to the fantastical cutting-edge creations served on bespoke crockery. The music, colourful lighting and changing visual displays of stunning landscapes lend a relaxed, almost dream-like atmosphere to proceedings.
Wilkinson’s cooking is one man’s vision, as he singlehandedly opens new doors and explores gastro-science through a rigorously detailed six-course ‘signature menu’: it’s an ever-evolving trip, but a typically “stunning” Michelin-starred journey might run from artichoke with chicken crisp and white port to a post-modern take on lemon meringue pie or the enigmatically titled ‘salt or sugar’.
Our six-course menu showcased the best of the season, starting with Severn & Wye smoked salmon with fragrant bergamot cream, and Devonshire crab with avocado and aromatic basil granita. Delicate wild sea trout came with smoked yoghurt, fresh peas and a squid ink cracker, while beautifully fatty Wagyu sirloin arrived dotted with earthy girolles, nasturtiums and textures of onion. To finish, there is cheese or dessert – perhaps wild strawberries from the garden dressed with summery elderflower and lemon balm.
Sunday lunch is a simpler four-course deal, but the results are equally sensational. Service is relaxed and unobtrusive (although staff really know their stuff), and the top-class wine list includes some “brilliant” pairings – in fact the whole experience is “flawless”.
SquareMeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK 2018 is compiled using votes from our annual survey, last conducted in spring 2018. Thousands of readers took part and the results were moderated by SquareMeal’s editor and his nationwide team of professional reviewers. The UK survey does not include any restaurants in London. Click here for the full list of SquareMeal’s Best Restaurants in the UK.
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11 Rose Mount, Oxton
Birkenhead Central Station 1km
Green Lane Station 1km
Wirral Ladies Golf Club 1km
Prenton Golf Club 2km
Wed-Sat 7pm-8.30pm Sun 12N-1.30pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
It was immediately obvious that things had developed since our last visit. It is still very difficult to get a booking on any particular day and we were lucky enough to find a relatively convenient date on the first day of booking for three months ahead, but we were not prepared for the digitalisation of the menu - we were handed an iPad style screen with the details of the dishes and a very spare wine list, which made no distinction between by-the-glass and bottle, apart from the price, and the relative cheapness of some of the bottles made one imagine that they might be halves. The wondrous glass wall sculptures had been replaced by computerised light shows, a shame in our eyes, and the seating arrangement was more akin to an 80s coffee bar set-up. We just hoped that the food, which had previously raved about, would still have that wow factor and the almost poetic note shown in the anonymous little handout accompanying the menu. The canapés started arriving almost before we had settled in, a red pepper shot preceding spiced pecans, which were followed by cheese jelly with pine nuts, a yuzu gel and a clever sourdough cream, and then, in quick order, a tomato mousse with small chunks of feta. The West Country smoked salmon was elevated by a super bergamot cream and some smoked almonds, but the overall pleasure was diminished by the grated pineapple, even though it was not as acidic as it might have been. The Orkney scallops with a dashi sauce, grape gel, samphire, and hints of radish had an almost caramelised note which was not very pleasant. Granary and treacle breads were then served before the next course which took the form of a parsley mousse backed up by hazelnuts, garden salad leaves and buttermilk cream, and which was quite unremarkable. A tiny and not uniformly perfect portion of monkfish followed supported by rather bland carrot cream, trendy puffed rice, and accents of black olive. Not for the first time we were told that the reason for importing guinea fowl from the Loire was that it is simply superior to anything in the UK, and it has to be said that the bird was outstanding - the confit leg in particular - as was the artichoke heart, although the textures of onion, the ceps, and the nasturtium leaves did nothing to help. The two desserts, apricot sorbet with rice and frozen lemon verbena, and blackberries with coffee meringue, white strawberries and pistachio cake failed to make a lasting impression. Our fond memories were not lived up to.
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