20 Stories, Manchester: restaurant review
Does a regular diner reach the same conclusion about a restaurant as a food pro, who may get special treatment if recognised?* Emma Sturgess and olive reader Tony Tickle compare notes on this new upmarket restaurant
Looking for places to eat in Manchester? Read our review of 20 Stories restaurant in Manchester and see if an expert restaurant critic comes to the same conclusion as an olive reader…
The pro restaurant reviewer
Emma Sturgess is a journalist and restaurant critic based near Manchester who writes for The Good Food Guide and SquareMeal. She loves anything with butter in it.
Ramsbottom-based bonsai artist Tony Tickle loves fish and seafood. He eats out about six times a month and his best experience was at the Porthminster Café in St Ives. His guilty pleasure is drinking half a bottle of dessert wine in one go.
About 20 Stories, Manchester
Acclaimed chef Aiden Byrne (previously of Manchester House, read our full review here, Danesfield House & Spa and Tom Aikens) has joined the D&D London group to open new all-day restaurant, bar and grill, 20 Stories, on the 19th floor of the No1 Spinningfields building in central Manchester.
The modern British menu in the main restaurant showcases local produce, with the majority sourced within a 50-mile radius of the city. Herdwick lamb sits on potato gnocchi and chanterelle mushrooms, poached John Dory is served with a smart langoustine velouté and white asparagus, and butter-poached salsify is topped with burnt leeks and parsnip purée. There’s also a more casual brasserie focussing on the grill, serving the likes of Yorkshire beef steaks, grilled heritage beetroot salad, and bone marrow burgers topped with beef cheek, mushroom and an onion ring.
With 360-degree views, the swish space also brings the outside in with glamorous interiors inspired by nature (plenty of wood, hanging plants, stone features). The bar and outdoor terrace is dedicated to cocktails, including the signature 20 Stories cocktail made with Tanqueray gin, vermouth, honey and herb cordial, and grapes shaken with fresh lemon.
Our pro's 20 Stories, Manchester restaurant review...
Can there be such a thing as having too much attention? Manchester has been getting a lot of it lately, especially from southern restaurant brands keen to expand into the city of suffrage, graphene and bees.
D&D London, which runs places like Orrery, Skylon and Bluebird, is the latest big operator to move in. It’s not mucking about: 20 Stories is a magnificent, flashy, double-height space on the 19th floor of a Spinningfields office block. We’re here for the restaurant (there’s a very busy grill, too) but you can take in the view for the price of a drink on the capacious glass-walled terrace.
First impressions aren’t conclusive. The hostesses’ uniforms seem to be short, clingy lace dresses, which is – to say the least – not very now. Service is variable, even after chef Aiden Byrne, ex of Manchester House, recognises me*. But the barman is great, the sommelier is sharp and the menu occupies the middle ground between familiarity and challenge.
More like this
Byrne has brought a few signature dishes with him to this egalitarian castle in the sky, but I particularly like the historical vibes of a starter of butter-poached chicken in a little jacket of herb-flecked cream sauce. Alongside, there’s a baked jerusalem artichoke shell with velvety chicken liver parfait. The cream-crunch of this is the highlight of lunch, along with another textural flourish – the super-crisp fat on a main course of Herdwick lamb with pine nuts, chanterelles and a puff of goat’s cheese. Dripping chips are pretty great alongside – lucky me – some left-over lamb gravy, although our bowl arrives meagrely filled.
The pudding list is all a bit soft, with lots of parfaits and mousses, but for a Liverpudlian, Byrne makes a decent fist of the flavours of a Manchester tart; the set coconut custard and raspberry sorbet take my friend back to her Chorlton schooldays.
THE BOTTOM LINE
20 Stories is more than a novelty, despite the inevitable Insta-posing that comes with a great view. Byrne’s cooking is as good as it’s ever been. Throw in the romance of the Salford rooftops, add chips and gravy, and few Mancs could resist.
Total for two, excluding service: £98 (we didn't drink alcohol)
Our punter's 20 Stories, Manchester restaurant review...
After booking online then calling to change to a later date and to request a window seat, my experience of the attentive and friendly staff was already very pleasant before I’d even set foot into this much-anticipated addition to Manchester’s evolving restaurant scene. The high level of service continued on arrival, when the knowledgeable sommelier recommended pairing our meaty menu choices with one of the better-value reds on the wine list, a fruity Chilean malbec.
Beautifully presented dishes were delivered swiftly, beginning with a bright-green broccoli, mussels and razor clam tart. Though the filling was a little too subtle in flavour, the pastry had a great crunch. My partner opted for succulent, butter poached chicken with a rich white port and cream sauce, and a baked jerusalem artichoke on the side.
Produce is locally sourced and we enjoyed perfectly pink Yorkshire Wolds duck for the main course with blackberries and crunchy kale crisps. The dish was well balanced but the portion size wasn’t very generous, with a single, very small, slice of duck breast, three blackberries and a few kale crisps for £24. Beef dripping chips on the side were top notch – crisp on the outside, light and fluffy in the middle. We also tried an excellent local lamb dish – a trio of soft and lean Texel lamb, with springy potato gnocchi, pine nuts, earthy chanterelles and a rich wine jus.
Dessert was a real highlight – a pretty wigwam of wafer-thin toasted meringue pieces covering a small mound of zesty pink grapefruit, fluffy ricotta and drizzled in a yuzu syrup.
THE BOTTOM LINE
20 Stories is the latest place for the bright young things of Manchester to hang out, the location is superb and the vibe noisy and fun, with modern décor and slick furnishings. I would definitely go back for drinks but not the food, as I think that Manchester has better fine-dining experiences.
Total for two, excluding service: £141