Marc WIlkinson's unique restaurant has made an announcement
The only Michelin star restaurant in Merseyside has announced it is to close for good at the end of this year.
With 14 covers, give or take, tiny Merseyside restaurant Fraiche has always been one of the most difficult restaurants to get into. Potential diners anxiously hovering their finger on the booking button on the first of the month at 10am when table bookings are released for three months hence. Inevitably disappointed when they are all snapped up in just a few seconds.
The intensity, drive and focus required to keep creating, developing and evolving Fraiche has been exciting but all consuming
Even Russell Crowe was reportedly told to get in line when his "people" tried to skip the booking process. And now, he's got no chance and neither have you because, after 18 years, owner Marc Wilkinson has announced he is closing Fraiche.
We've eaten there, of course, and it was a spectacular experience. Last visit for this writer was in March 2020 - just as the waves of the pandemic were about to crash through the hospitality world - and it remains one of the most memorable dinners of my life.
A truly unique dining experience
Wilkinson is a true artist and an incredible kitchen talent whose eccentricity shines through not only in the cuisine but also the acid trip, lava lamp decor. Unassuming diners might have found the dance music soundtrack incongruous (he also dabbles as a DJ and is a massive Prince fan) but it was all part of Marc putting his heart, soul and unique self into everything. Just because some of us had been, it didn't stop team Confidentials from trying (and failing) to get another table every month.
In an in-depth interview for our sister site, Confidential Guides, back in 2019, Marc told us all about his "one man and a shed" operation. He's famously run his kitchen singlehandedly except for a KP on a Saturday and the odd guest chef for almost two decades. He'd previously decided to move the tiny restaurant to larger premises closer to Liverpool and hire a bigger team to grow the operation - but had gone back on the plans, saying it would be too stressful.
The man deserves a break, but we're gutted this is how it's had to happen.
Marc Wilkinson makes the announcement
In an announcement on the restaurant's Facebook group, Marc said:
"I have some good and some sad news to share with you; let’s get the gloomy side out of the way first. The time has now come for me to step away from the restaurant side of Fraiche and give myself some much needed time and space to explore other projects, ideas and interests, which previously I have been unable to pursue and finally make the transition from one man and his restaurant to one man and his dog.
"All current bookings in the system will be honoured, but no more new reservations will be released… meaning that at the end of September I will be closing the restaurant side of Fraiche as you know it.
"18 years is a long time in one place and the intensity, drive and focus required to keep creating, developing and evolving Fraiche has been exciting but all consuming, not to mention physically and mentally draining. I am immensely proud of everything I have achieved at Fraiche over the years and feel incredibly lucky to have had this opportunity to put Merseyside proudly on the culinary map.
"The “Fraiche” name will not be going away any time soon. There are so many ideas and projects which have been racing around my brain for a long time, and now finally I will be able to devote the time and energy to their fruition.
"Please stay signed up to our social media platforms to be the first to hear of any 'Fraiche' news about future projects, events and developments. This is not the end, just simply a change in my direction.
Thank you for all your support and love for Fraiche.
Marc at Fraiche"
Hope for the future of the influential Fraiche
So while the restaurant is closing, there is a glimmer of hope for some future projects. We know Marc is well-loved by many chefs including Manchester's plant wizard Eddie Shepherd - who has popped up as a guest at Fraiche in the past - as well as The Art School's Paul "Porky" Askew and The French's Adam Reid. We hope he might pop up as a guest chef himself in pal's restaurants when he closes the doors of his own place.
Paul Askew said, "Marc has been a shining beacon of gastronomy in the North for such a long time and a great exemplar for the Wirral and the whole of Merseyside. I hope it’s not true but if it is I wish him well in all he does he deserves every success in the future."
Eddie Shepherd added, "It’s an incredibly unique restaurant. To have been at that Michelin star standard and continually creative with just Marc in the kitchen all these years is an utterly immense achievement. To me, Marc is easily one of the country’s greatest chefs. He’s got amazing precision and technique but with that still this desire to be continually creative and artistic... Despite all the well-deserved awards he’s been given Fraiche has still been underrated in terms of just how groundbreaking it is... with the clearest expression of the chef's personality and vision I can think of.
"Marc was obviously a massive influence on me. He is a huge reason that I cook like I do, on my own cooking a tasting menu for eight guests a night... Seeing Marc cooking at that level on his own inspired me to want to cook that way myself.
"Marc has been the biggest and most direct influence on me and my cooking, so I’m both very sad to see Fraiche close its doors, but also super excited to see what he puts his energies into next and how he continues to evolve."
Adam Reid said, "It’s a real shame that a real northern institution will be gone, Marc’s an incredible chef and Fraiche is a world-class restaurant so it shows that the industry is really struggling at the moment."
Fraiche was a truly unique experience, in a world of dining that can sometimes be very predictable. It was criminally left off the list for this year's National Restaurant Awards - which has gone back to being overwhelmingly London-centric.
We at Confidentials are gutted that we won't be able to eat in the wonderful Fraiche in its home in Oxton ever again. We hadn't lost hope of getting another table until now. But we know what a brutal industry this can be and wish Marc all the very best for his future projects and hope he enjoys some well-needed rest and relaxation before jumping back in. Maybe we can finally drag you out for a pint, Marc.