20 Stories, No. 1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, Manchester, M3 3EB – Visit Now
20 Stories exploded onto the Manchester dining scene last year with a raft of rave reviews, particularly when it comes to the huge floor-to-ceiling windows which provide a fantastic glimpse of Manchester’s skyline – the endless scaffolding is much easier on the eye when you’re hundreds of feet up in the air. Since the start of the year, there’s been a reshuffle in the kitchen, with Liverpool-born Brian Hughson taking over as head chef.
We’re here to try out the new lunch menu, and luckily it’s a gloriously sunny day, providing dazzling panoramic views over the city from the top floor of No.1 Spinningfields tower. It must be said, the whole experience screams luxury. You step into a lift without any buttons and zoom effortlessly up to the nineteenth floor (not the twentieth, curiously), met with a dazzling bar and cheerful friendly staff.
Thanks to new chef Hugson, the restaurant’s menu is becoming worthy of its views
A lunch menu means the dishes are lighter than the heavier courses served up in the evening. The chicken liver parfait and sourdough are a fine opening act, all rich meaty paté and crunchy toasted bread. Same for the beetroot cured salmon tartare, arranged wonderfully, all vivid reds and oranges, with the often-overwhelming earthiness of the beetroot kept in check by the fresh salmon and delicate dill aromas.
Cod fillet for the main course, with thin slices of cauliflower, intertwined with raisins and capers. The fish is a delight, beautifully cooked and flakey. The confit duck leg is another success – a chunky well-seasoned leg, resting on crunchy pak choi with an artful dollop of spiced carrot puree.
Desserts are excellent too, with the clear winner a strawberry creme brulee. This is the classic creme brulee, with the genius addition of a base layer of strawberry jam. It’s a simple change but one that takes it from ‘yet another creme brulee’ into the realms of something very special indeed. The accompanying pair of lemon thyme shortbread biscuits aren’t strictly necessary but they’re delicious nonetheless.
20 Stories had teething problems in its early days. The then-head chef Aidan Byrne wasn’t a great match, and some courses felt rushed and lacking in imagination. Thanks to new chef Hugson, the restaurant’s menu is becoming worthy of its views – fantastic British cooking, made with fresh ingredients and an eye on innovation without ever spilling over into gimmickry.