Regular readers may remember that back on Mothering Sunday we ate at The Patron but didn’t invite mum. Well the good karma news is I atoned for it this week by taking mother to Manchester’s most talked about new venue, 20 Stories. As luck would have it, the sky-scraping restaurant has just expanded its repertoire to include roast beef with all the trimmings, so we stuck on our Sunday best, grabbed that posh pair of sunnies and booked a table on the most altitudinous terrace in town.
Certain places seem to have that certain quality that just puts you in good spirits, 20 Stories certainly sits slap bang in that category. With the sun shining, glistening drinks clinking and some of the most cordial service we’ve had anywhere, quite frankly, you’d be hard pressed to find much to frown about. Those Champagne moods call for a bit of the sparkly stuff so we began with Scottish rope grown mussels in Champagne sauce matched with a fantastic dry and subtly fruity English fizz, Blanc de Blancs from the Albourne Estate.
There’s a fine dining feel to the menu of course, but Aiden Byrne has created an unfussy set of dishes that don’t over complicate matters, allowing elements their opportunity for attention. The fennel cured salmon, with stalk shavings from that same vegetable, exemplified this approach nicely. Beetroot, slivers of orange and a nectarous vinaigrette, spiked with more fennel seed, brought about a beautiful balance.
Modern British this may be, but there’s still room for the greatest hits at 20 Stories, with cottage pie and fish and chips up for grabs. Roast beef will always be a crowd pleaser, but perfectly pink, rare slices of meat with all the trimmings can more than hold their own up against contemporary plates and palates. Yorkshires the size of boxing glove, a proper pot of gravy and crisp roasties will win over the toughest of foodie crowds and everything was well executed, a luscious portion of charred cauliflower cheese never goes amiss either. Even me mum seemed impressed.
The daintier stuff is always so much more photogenic though isn’t it? Lemon sole with a ridiculously alluring rust to its flesh was the sort of dish that eyes seem to follow around the room, luckily it was destined for our table. More gentle layers of flavour followed as sweet, skinned grapes, micro herbs and a smattering of al dente almonds lent themselves to the moist fish fillets.
A golf ball-sized Ferrero Rocher sounds as a good reason to take the lift to the 19th floor of any building and, if that wasn’t retro enough for you already, Parma Violet ice cream would either find you climbing the stairs or maybe the walls, depending on your opinion of that particular childhood flashback. All it needed was a few party rings, instead though, light and fluffy chocolate loaf, wispy like a fresh panettone, added one final texture.
All that was left then was to take in a splendid Manchester tart, with a slice of that seductive city view. It was the other city in fairness we but, you know, Salfords close enough. An airy coconut custard with the odd bubble, and plenty of wobble, crowned raspberry compote within a thin golden pastry crumb. It was probably even a bit better looking than what we could see out of the window, if I’m honest.
No. 1 Spinningfields
1 Hardman Square
Manchester M3 3EB
0161 204 3333