Everyone’s talking about Manchester’s highest new restaurant, 20 Stories. Social media is awash with photos of the view. And it is indeed breathtaking, offering unparalleled 360 degree views of Manchester’s changing city skyline from the rooftop garden.
But how does the dining experience stand up?
Occupying the 19th floor rooftop of the No.1 Spinningfields building, the 15,263 sq ft development is the latest project from the restaurant group D&D London, whose stable includes Quaglino’s, Bluebird, and the Michelin-starred Angler in London.
The glamorous 20 Stories restaurant and the more relaxed grill area offer distinct menus at different price points, and Aiden Byrne’s modern British menus aim to celebrate local produce. Vegetables come directly from the restaurant’s own farm in Cheshire, and meat is sourced from small suppliers throughout Lancashire, Cheshire and Yorkshire.
The restaurant offers a fine dining experience, with a tempting menu stuffed with luxurious ingredients – truffle, wild turbot, game – though, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t come cheap.
It’s nice to see three courses with plenty of choice, rather than a tasting menu. A starter of squab pigeon with cherries and violet mustard (£13.50) was strikingly presented and ate just as well, with the breast cooked pink and a tender confit leg.
Baked Jerusalem artichoke with butter poached chicken, white port and cream sauce (£12) was served cold and packed an unexpected punch of robust flavours including chicken liver parfait and heady truffle vinaigrette.
A main of John Dory (£24) was perfectly poached and well-balanced, served with foamy langoustine velouté, a whole langoustine and a white asparagus spear, with crispy chicken skin adding a pleasing textural contrast. A glass of Domaine de Vauroux Chablis (£10.50) provided an elegant accompaniment with its clean mineral notes and hints of citrus.
Yorkshire Wolds duck (£24) came as a pleasingly pink slice of breast alongside a couple of little mounds of soft confit leg meat, served with blackberries and crispy kale, with flavours of gin and lovage oil. Sides cost extra, but a dish of mash (£4) was buttery and indulgent, mopping up the meaty juices nicely.
The sommelier’s recommendation of a glass of Tyrrell’s Heathcote Rufus Stone Shiraz 2013 from Hunter Valley, Australia (£12) was a good match with its plum and dark cherry notes, a hint of spice embracing the dish’s gaminess.
Desserts include Aiden’s take on Manchester tart (£8.50), a showy deconstructed version consisting of coconut set cream, raspberry meringue and pastry crumb – far removed from the nostalgic school dinner version – while a tasty milk chocolate praline ball with a caramel centre (£8.50) was served with banana ice cream, chocolate biscuit crumb and coconut rum mascarpone.
Service was exemplary throughout, making for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
But diners may find that prices soon mount up. Order three courses with a cocktail and a glass of wine, and you could easily be looking at around £75 a head – more if you explore the extensive wine list.
A more affordable option is the restaurant’s new lunch set menu, available Monday to Friday and offering two courses for £22.50.
I enjoyed a set menu starter of sea bass, heritage tomatoes, crab and pea shoots, an elegant taste of spring, the blow torched fish cured in vinegar, salt and sugar and served with a delicate tomato consommé.
More affordable still is the grill, at least in parts.
A cured salmon starter (£6.50) was superb, bursting with flavours of orange, fennel and beetroot, while a white onion and Parmesan soup (£6) was rich and deliciously comforting.
Aiden’s favourite main dish from the grill is the cottage pie (£10), topped with piped celeriac puree and buttery mash, and it’s a fine version indeed.
The steak section, though, is where the real action happens. A selection of 32-day dry aged rare breed beauties includes Galloway rib eye and Hereford sirloin (£32 – £35), as well as a 42oz Shorthorn wing rib to share (£76). They’re not cheap, but the quality justifies the price tag. Manchester’s steak restaurants have competition.
My 10oz Galloway rib eye (£32) was a stunner, a juicy marbled steak full of flavour, cooked perfectly medium rare with a seared crust. Accompanied by fat, golden, beef dripping chips (£4), a rich bone marrow and shallot gravy (£4), and a glass of Argentinian Malbec (£11) to wash it down, it was a plate of pure pleasure.
Desserts were pleasing, too. A chocolate fondant with ‘inside out rocky road ice cream’ (£6.50), cooked to order, was richly flavoured and playful, and it was nice to see a classic creamy tiramisu (£6.50) make an appearance.
So which section should you book?
The restaurant is undoubtedly elegant, with some skilled dishes, a cracking wine list and flawless service, but the price probably makes it more of an occasional treat unless you’re having the set lunch.
The grill is more moderately priced, especially if you stick to the classic mains, but the rare breed steaks are well worth splashing the extra cash. They’re available on the restaurant menu, too.
If you’re just after a drink with a view, the bar offers a creative range of cocktails to sip on the terrace. Champagne Supernova (£12.50) is a delight, the crisp champagne blended with quince gin, Cointreau and zingy citrus.
When the sun comes out, this will be everyone’s favourite hangout.