A true paradox in every sense of the word, Cottonopolis is quintessentially Mancunian, but then in the same breath - not at all.
Back in 2015 when Cottonopolis was first announced, with all of its links to the Industrial Revolution and bee motifs, one could easily forgive me for simply rolling my eyes and moving on – safe in the knowledge that this new Northern Quarter venue wouldn’t be around for long and wouldn’t amount to very much.
How wrong I would have been.
Of course, with a name like “Cottonopolis”, you SHOULD probably expect a restaurant that does pies, Vimto flavoured stuff and cocktails that all feature bee pollen and honey – but you couldn’t be any further from the truth.
Taking surprising inspiration from Japanese cuisine, Cottonopolis burst onto the scene with an extraordinary mix of the highest-quality sushi, locally sourced Yorkshire Wagyu steaks, belting cocktails and a diverse events calendar – all with a distinctive Mancunian swagger.
You’d have thought that Japanese influences and Manchester wouldn’t go together in the slightest, that they’d be like chalk and cheese in a venue that was constantly fighting with itself to shove a ‘theme’ down your throat – but Cottonopolis manages to be much cooler that.
Helped considerably by a Head Chef in the form of Joe Grant and Sushi Chef Alastair Long, then the talented Julien Pizer, (and now Joe again), Cottonopolis’ assault on the city’s food scene was deliberate and sweeping, with a menu split up into 4 distinct categories; Fire, Steam, Ice and Oil.
No visit to Cottonopolis is complete without a couple of Dim Sum; perhaps their Duck, Cherry & Sour Plum Gyoza (£9), the outstanding Wagyu Short Rib Bao Bun (£14) or a platter of Vegetable Tempura (£7) with a yuzu ponzu for dipping.
There are almost too many stand-out dishes to mention here, and I’m getting myself all hot and bothered just thinking about them. The Duck & Pork Belly Hamuraki (£12), the Stone Bass Loin (£20) and not forgetting Manchester’s most extravagant sandwich – the sublime Wagyu Katsu Sando (£25), with meat sourced from the Warrendale Wagyu Farm in East Yorkshire.
Then there’s the super-fresh and tasty Sashimi (with Loch Duart Scottish Salmon), Tartare, Maki Rolls and more, oh – and I’ve not even touched on their Bottomless Brunch dishes – which are quite simply more imaginative, creative and delicious than you’ll find anywhere else in the city.
Finally, I certainly can’t miss out Cottonopolis’ brilliant Yum Cha Sundays – which sees diners faced with pretty much unlimited Dim Sum for 3 hours – as servers walk the venue with special trolleys piled high with a dazzling array of Japanese treats, morsels and later – sushi.
In addition to the food, Cottonopolis is well-known throughout the city and further afield for their outstanding contribution to the world of cocktails – no more so encapsulated by the award-winning ‘Japanese Idioms’ menu of 2018 – a selection of creations that were based around a range of Japanese saying and parables but were pure Mancunian in their execution.
Imbibe, the UK’s leading publisher for industry drinks professionals awarded Cottonopolis’ Japanese Idioms menu two gongs during their annual awards ceremony – one for ‘Avant Garde List of the Year’ and another ‘Drinks List of the Year Overall’. Testament to the hard work and dedication the team at Cottonopolis seem to always put into their drinks, the tradition of world-class cocktails continues, and you’ll always be guaranteed a fabulous concoction in Cottonopolis – no matter the time of day.
With a packed calendar of live DJs, sample sales, tap takeovers, immersive Secret Suppers and late-night raves, Cottonopolis has frequently been ‘the place to be’ and will continue to be so after this pandemic is all but a distant memory.
So, what’s planned for when they re-open? Well, as I briefly mentioned earlier in this article, the man behind Cottonopolis’ first menu, former Head Chef Joe Grant is BACK at the helm, and he’ll be overseeing a menu and kitchen that will be keen to impress straight off the bat.
So you should expect outstanding food, world-class cocktails and an effortless coolness in 2021, and my word, we just can’t wait to get back.