“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” 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”.