In my eyes, Cottonopolis can do no wrong. The drinks are fantastic, the brunch is the best in the city and the menu never fails to let me down.
So you can imagine my excitement when I heard that they had added some new dishes to the menu and if you listen closely, my squeal of enthusiasm is still echoing around the Northern Quarter. I got myself down there to try them within minutes of seeing the news on Twitter.
We kicked things off with the Crispy Gyoza Skins (£3.50) which were a surprising hybrid between a prawn cracker and a poppadum. I liked them. I liked them a lot.
They came sprinkled with a spicy seasoning and an avocado salsa on the side for dipping which was creamy and delicious. These little snacks make the perfect start to any meal and an even better accompaniment to a drink at the bar on an evening after work.
I’ve got to say that I must be the only person on the planet who is not totally and utterly obsessed with Bao Buns. Don’t get me wrong, I like them and all, but most of the time they are an overfilled, glorified sandwich.
With some (understandable) reluctance then, I ordered the Salt and Pepper Tofu Bao (£9) upon recommendation, and they’ve gone a considerable way to change my opinion on the whole debate. The buns were light and fluffy and the tofu was perfectly cooked, crispy and flavourful with aromatic notes of that wonderful salt and pepper spice.
It came served with house pickled cucumber and sticky Tonkatsu sauce which brought the perfect amount of lubrication to the Bao without it being a sticky overspill situation. Top marks all round for the Bao.
On to another Japanese street food classic we ordered the Kushiyaki Robata – which is grilled barbeque skewers to you and I. We went for the Kurabuta Pork (£8) which was expertly cooked cubes of marinated pork belly which were sweet, salty, spiced, fatty (I mean the crispy good kind) and charred to perfection all at once.
These yaki skewers came with a sweet chilli jam on the side which was the perfect accompaniment to the umami pork. I would happily eat it on my toast from now until forever.
They are extremely naughty but a certain must for any visit to Cottonopolis, even if you’re just there for a few beers with friends – you’d be crazy not to try them.
Okay, and on to something a little bit special. The Wagyu Katsu Sando (£25) is said to be Manchester’s most expensive sandwich. Whether it is or it isn’t (I want to do some research first before I say for sure), it is certainly one of the most delicious.
The amount of Wagyu beef is substantial, beautifully rare and paired with crispy squares of toasted bread. I wasn’t convinced by the cheese at first as I felt it distracted from the sumptuous onion kimchi, but it certainly grew on me.
A new feature to the Cottonopolis menu is the Kombu section which serves roasted market fish. The two offerings are king scallops and salmon, but we went for the latter. The Salmon (£12) itself is local(ish) from one of Scotland’s best salmon farms – Loch Duart, a good example of Cottonopolis’ approach to their menu – a bit of the North mixed in with Japanese food.
This fish was outstandingly cooked, which, if you ask me, is a little under with a delicious crispy skin. It came served with a delightful pickled mushroom ponzu and Ikura red caviar for little bursts of colour and flavour to an already mouth-wateringly elegant dish.
Sticking with the fish, we also went for the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare (£9) which made a delicious palate cleanser. I could not believe how beautifully fresh the raw tuna tasted. It was ice-cold and tasted as if it has been plucked from the sea just moments ago.
My only complaint was I felt the egg yolk was a little too large for the portion size, and perhaps a smaller yolk (or none at all) might have been more effective. Nevertheless, it was still flavoursome, fresh and attractive with the additions of avocado and lotus root crisps.
Duck and Plum Gyoza (£7) was up next and I always look forward to a dumpling or two. These came served in a traditional bamboo basket complete with a puff of steam which expels into your nostrils upon opening.
Stuffed with duck, plum and ginger, the filling was flavourful with a lovely soft consistency. It was delightfully meaty, with none of that unfortunate abundance of juice that you sometimes get in lesser dumplings.
As for the dough- which is notoriously difficult to make- was tacky and soft without being slimy or sticky which for anyone who has attempted to make their own dumplings, these can be classed as a success.
Vegetarians and carnivores alike are going to fall in love with the Aubergine Nasu Genkan (£7) which was formed of a roasted half aubergine with a lovely crispy skin and gooey middle, flavoured with miso, green onion, sesame seeds and a toothsome selection of pickled daikon radish and cucumber on the side for that added extra je ne sais quoi. (Or Japanese equivalent.)
Now, I’ve saved the best for last, because I honestly haven’t been able to stop thinking about this dish ever since I had it. It even made it on to my list of best things I ate last week, which is quite an achievement when you snuffle as much food as me.
The 5oz Wagyu Fillet of Beef (£30) was nothing other than sublime. The beef itself is Wagyu, which is known as some of the best in the world for its marbling in the flesh which brings rich flavour and a texture that just melts in the mouth. This beef is also as local as possible, coming from the fantastic Warrendale Wagyu Farm in East Yorkshire.
They cook the beef on the grill which ensures a delicious charred outside to the meat while protecting the middle and making sure to keep it rare. The balance of the two was exquisite.
The dish was finished off with some grilled asparagus, confit tomatoes and tomato dashi– an intense stock-based sauce made with miso, seaweed and mushrooms. The combination of these four elements was stunning, and all in all, was as close to the perfect dish as you can get.
Cottonopolis’s new additions to the menu are stunning to say the very least. They manage to shine through an already fantastic menu and I encourage you to get down there at your earliest convenience to give them a try (especially that steak!)
Cottonopolis, 16 Newton St, Manchester M1 2AE
0161 236 5144