Whether it’s a business meeting, a catch-up with friends or a solo treat, a good lunch has the enduring power to make us happy.
A comfortable dining space with a jaw-dropping view across the city is a bonus, as is slick service and attention to detail. But really, it’s all about great quality food that just makes everything seem better.
And when you get all that, and you can get two courses for under £20 as well? Book us in.
Head chef Brian Hughson has made some welcome changes to the 20 Stories menu. The new lunchtime set menu (£18.50 for two courses, or £23.50 for three) shows his commitment to “good honest food” while also demonstrating his culinary pedigree.
Brian has more than 25 years of culinary experience. His first steps in the kitchens of Manchester began shortly after the opening of Mash and Air in 1997 and he quickly worked his way up through some prestigious establishments.
The chef has worked at high-profile London restaurants with Henri Brosi at The Grill at The Dorchester, Gary Rhodes at Rhodes W1, The Savoy Grill with Gordon Ramsay and The Belvedere with Marco Pierre White. He’s even catered for Her Majesty The Queen.
And while the a la carte menu at 20 Stories retains the signature heritage steaks, grills and homely classics the restaurant has become known for, the set lunch menu keeps things nice and simple.
There’s a choice of three starters, three mains and three desserts. And the ever-changing menu depends on what’s in season.
On our visit, starters included the prettiest plate of rich creamy burrata with colourful roasted heritage baby carrots and an onion jam.
Slightly heftier but just as attractive was a crispy duck salad. The generous chunks of meat were mixed with a lightly spiced Asian style salad with a rainbow of shredded raw heritage carrot and micro herbs. Each fresh, crisp mouthful was utterly joyful.
We didn’t get chance to try the Shetland cod soup with curry oil and coriander cream, tempting as it sounded. Next time.
Wine-wise, if a bottle’s too much for lunchtime or you just fancy trying something new, there’s plenty of choice by the glass.
There’s five sparkling wines including an English one, and eight each of white and red, including three of each by the Coravin system if you want to go for something really high end but in a smaller, more affordable measure.
There’s also four rosés, for that summer holiday feeling, and nine sweet and fortified wines including two from Coravin and two ports from whopping 4.5 litre Jeroboam bottles.
Onto mains, and a crisp-skinned fillet of sea bream was nicely balanced with spinach and smoky chorizo, dressed in a pine nut emulsion.
Tender cornfed chicken breast was spiced up with warming lentil dhall, with a cool sharp yoghurt and crispy onions for crunch. A courgette and beetroot salad with baked feta provided a veggie friendly option.
And when it comes to dessert, there’s no messing about at 20 Stories. It’s just pure indulgence.
Rice pudding was a million miles away from school dinners, creamy and comforting served with tender poached peaches. A hug in a very elegant bowl.
Cherry Bakewell, meanwhile, was pretty as a picture and supremely Insta-friendly dotted with blobs of ruby-red fruit puree and scattered with pale almonds.
But this perfectly executed classic also had depth of flavour and perfect pastry, and was vegan friendly thanks to being served with a cherry and almond sorbet rather than cream or ice cream.
I’m still regretting not getting to try the third option, a caramel chocolate mousse. Next time, perhaps.
But we left full and happy with huge smiles on our faces. And that’s the thing about 20 Stories. It may only have been a weekday lunch, but thanks to the cracking cooking and top-of-the-world views, we left feeling utterly spoiled.