20 Stories, No. 1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, Manchester, M3 3EB – Visit Now
Brian Hughson was appointed the new Head Chef at 20 Stories back in February and we were given a sneak preview of the kind of forward-thinking dishes he has planned for the future of this beautiful restaurant. While previous dishes (under former chefs) were a little hit and miss, Brian has streamlined the menu, offering courses that are great on the eye and even better on the palate. Here are some of the fantastic menu items we tried.
This inspired duo is the first dish we tried, superbly-cooked seared Orkney scallops and cauliflower vinaigrette, paired with a cured sardine pie – although we’d fight to the death calling it what it really is: a pastie. This latter option is possibly my favourite out of all the dishes. You wouldn’t expect sardines to work with pastry, but it absolutely does.
This is an unusual dish, with plenty of odd textures but underpinned with traditional flavours. It’s a thick piece of baked brill with a Beaufort crust, plus a shallot and thyme purée, and a leek and mushroom fondue. The Beaufort crust was a bit odd at first, but makes perfect sense when tried with the fish. It’s an eye-catching dish, and a great leap forward for 20 Stories evening menu.
One for the meat-lovers. This is roasted Goosnargh duck breast, with a foe gras club sandwich – and a couple of pickled blackberries for good measure. These are big bold flavours – not especially summery but then again, this summer hasn’t been especially summery either. Wait for a cold evening and this is the perfect meal – the duck is exceptionally moreish, soft and pink and wonderful.
Finally, the salted caramel tart, with a nice scoop of stem ginger ice cream. Adding this fiery root to the ice cream lifts it to all new levels, and makes a perfect match for the more subtle flavours of the tart.
We also had the pleasure of checking out 20 Stories’ new Tropical Terrace, a stylish tropical garden replacing the iconic snow globes set up throughout winter. It’s here until the end of June, and was set up through a partnership with acclaimed vodka brand CÎROC. We tried their summer watermelon cocktail in the blazing sun, under a bunch of palm trees while checking out Manchester’s surprisingly pretty skyline (the best views in all of Manchester, trust us on this).
As for the cocktail, if you’re a watermelon fan – which I most certainly am – you’ll love this. It’s a smart combination of delicate sweetness and zesty tartiness, with a heavy thwack of that glorious heavy watermelon taste. It’s set to be one of 20 Stories’ classic cocktails, and you could easily sink three or four in a single sitting. Our verdict? Wait for a sunny day then go for the views, but stay for the cocktails.
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.