At 10am on the first day of the month Fraiche’s reservations open. By 10.01am every table has gone.
Like the golden tickets to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, food lovers are desperate for the chance to try Marc Wilkinson’s Michelin starred cooking for themselves.
Some get fed up with waiting, and take to Fraiche’s Facebook page to complain.
“People who don’t know us often think there’s secret bookings going on but the truth is all bookings that are available for the month are released on the first of each month at 10am,” says Marc.
“It fills up in just under 60 seconds. People do often take frustrations out on us but if you have 1500 people seeking 240 seats what can you possibly do to appease people? There is no fairer system I have seen anywhere.
“We have our own booking system on the website which runs in real time, offering the next three full months ahead. It allows bookings at any time of day – if there is availability, of course.”
He clearly tries to help as much as he can. There’s plenty of notice – reservations open two months in advance, and if there’s a really special date, he will try to accommodate it through a cancellation list.
“We do offer a cancellation list for matched dates to try to accommodate people,” he says.
But with just six precious tables each night, demand is such that bookings are hard to come by, and as the accolades stack up, the pressure on tables grows.
The last couple of months have already seen Fraiche placed at number 13 in Squaremeal’s annual UK’s Top 100 Restaurants, and at number 14 in The Good Food Guide’s Top 50, but Marc takes it all in his stride.
“Awards should always be a byproduct of your intentions, not the raison d’être to be working in a kitchen,” he says. “A passion for food and making guests smile and content has to still trump awards.
“Of course – as with most chefs – you do dream of being recognised for the hard work involved, and any future awards would be greatly appreciated and accepted with pride.”
Now the Michelin Guide 2018 is out, bringing with it another star for Fraiche. Its the tenth star in a row for Marc and his beloved shed. Does the Michelin star make a big difference to a restaurant?
“Simply, yes,” Marc replies. “Though it is a two edged sword, for if we were to lose the star then we are in danger of losing a lot of custom. And the damage can reverberate for a substantial period.”
Marc and his small team do everything they possibly can to keep standards sky high in the restaurant. He’s up and working early every day, cooking right through until late into the night.
“After rising and having breakfast the cooking begins, usually with the breads and continues on until I lock up at the end of service,” he explains.
It’s Marc’s level of attention to detail, and keeping a careful eye on every step of the process, which gives Fraiche its edge. Marc cooks every meal at Fraiche himself.
He says simply: “If I’m not in the engine room, Fraiche is closed.”
Marc’s style is so unique, his attention to detail so acute that it begs the question how he got started, and where he found those early influences?
“My beginnings in the industry were purely financially driven,” he laughs. “As a 15 year old who had designs on a new Hutch bicycle, I simply sought a part time job to aid my funding.
“It just so happened to be a kitchen role in a local hotel. This wasn’t to light the career fire as such – that came later after watching a TV series called Take Six Chefs, which literally changed my direction in life, and the start of my career path.”
Where does Marc eat out, and what does he eat at home?
“To eat really well I have to travel further afield to the likes of Barcelona, which I just visited actually, to dine at Enigma – a new amazing concept restaurant.
“At home, toast is very popular. I do love toast. Eccles cakes are, of course, my sweet persuasion and should the time arise to actually cook then roast chicken – using the black leg breed – is always a treat.”
Fraiche, 11 Rose Mount, Oxton, Wirral, CH43 5SG, 0151 652 2914, https://www.restaurantfraiche.com/