Cottonopolis, 16 Newton Street, Manchester, M1 2AE – Visit Now
Let’s not beat about the bush, Cottonopolis is probably the best restaurant in the Northern Quarter. Why? The team behind it seem to have a sixth sense about what makes for a perfect dining experience, and there’s no feeling of ‘work in progress’ – this restaurant is the finished article.
First, the space itself looks stunning. It’s designed to fit the area like a glove, with high ceilings, candles and huge windows, nodding back to when round here was naught but mills. Then there’s the staff. If you ever hear someone grumbling about the kids today, send them here – the young staff are some of the friendliest and clued-in anywhere in the city, and wonderfully likeable with it. But more than this, the food and drink on offer are on another level.
The drinks menu is especially inspired, combining far-out ingredients to come up with something beautiful for both eye and mouth. One cocktail even comes with a mini-Polaroid photo of you and your guest clipped to it. Now, I’m a bit of a stickler for GDPR but in this case, I’m willing to let it slide. There’s a story behind practically everything too, such as the little clay pots they serve sake in, handmade by a local potter.
The food is Asian-inspired small plates, leaning heavily on Japanese cuisine and you can go as light or heavy as you feel. There’s an extensive sushi section, all fresh, all high-grade and all worth a try, Pokemon-style. The yellowfin tuna akami, chu-toro, o-toro (all different cuts) is a showstopper, presented like a fan with an array of cucumber slices, and tastes so good you can’t help but close your eyes with each bite.
The sea bass tiradito from the raw section is an altogether more punchy option, full of bold colours and sharp flavours, thanks to the tiger’s milk (don’t be silly, tiger’s milk is a citrus-based marinade), quinoa and what can only be described as a radish repurposed as a Super Mario mushroom.
Teriyaki asparagus is a good match for the above, crunchy spears coated with a light truffle mayo, and dark umami flavours. And if we’re keeping it on the light side, the wakame (a kind of kelp) and radish side salad, is tailor-made for these balmy summer weeks.
But if you crave something hot and smoky – and who doesn’t? – the robata sections of the menu deserve a look. The yuzu koshi scallops are chubby little charred molluscs, skewered and bursting with citrus spices. There might not be many of them, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find them done better elsewhere.
Then there’s the beef. 8oz of salty sirloin, resting on a delicious coriander pesto, dark and crispy on the edges and soft and pink in the middle. You’ll find yourself saying ‘just one more’ until your plate is empty.
To round things off, a yuzu cheesecake made using togarashi, a Japanese spice mixture, plus a cute scoop of sorbet. The cheesecake is impossibly creamy, the perfect foil for the dark chargrilled courses and the bright potent sushi dishes.
The Northern Quarter, much like Manchester in general, has seen massive growth in recent years, but when it comes to eating out Cottonopolis remains way up there. Whether you’re looking for the ultimate date night, a catch-up with friends or just a solo outing, here’s where you’ll find top-tier dishes for all tastes and budgets.