20 Stories, 1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, M3 3EB. www.20stories.co.uk
Arriving at the grill on the 19th floor I was gutted it was so overcast outside. “It’d be amazing to watch the sunset from up here,” I said to Hannah as we were seated next to the window and given some Pollen Bakery bread and whipped butter to nibble on.
Looking at the menu I was very aware we were dining in a ‘grill’ and that I didn’t fancy steak. Lamb hot pot? Cottage pie? Fish and chips? OK, so it’s cod cheek and chips, but still. Some of the ‘classics’ bordered on boring, and, at first, I really struggled to pick something from the grill menu.
But thankfully, the service is helpful, friendly and absolutely on point. When our waiter told us about the special starters; a lobster and langoustine bisque and scallops with coppa ham things started to get a little more interesting.
After telling him I was struggling to pick a main but that I loved seafood; he recommended the sea bass to share. Hearing that it came served with croquettes, and was prepared at the table, I was sold.
The menu is very light in its descriptions, so it pays to listen to the servers and ask questions to make sure you make the right choice. In terms of steak and seafood, the menu is great, but I think vegans and veggies would struggle up here.
World Class Wines
After ordering, the charming young wine expert came over to see if we fancied a tipple. He was so enthusiastic about wine, his job, the industry – he talked us through 20 Stories extensive wine offering which I must say is really impressive.
They serve even the most expensive bottles (including Dom Perignon Champagne!) by the glass, thanks to a very clever device they use to keep bottles fresh once opened.
As our meal was on the house, it was a bottle of house white for us, which was nice but it didn’t blow our socks off. I did wonder at this point why they bother with house wines in the first place. If they champion world wines and value for money by offering expensive bottles by the glass AND have a wine expert in-house every night, surely they can do away with the old-fashioned “house red, white and rose” and move to a more progressive wine offering?
I bet so many people just opt for ‘the house’ wine when 20 Stories have so much more to offer both in terms of choice and value. Next time I’m in I’ll be exploring the wine menu in a little more detail and I’ll make sure it’s not a school night 😋🍷
The mackerel is stunning; a generous portion for £8 it has to be one of the best value dishes on the menu. It’s served with celeriac and whole grain mustard and a salad with pickled apple and smoked eel. The apple was a little sharp but the mackerel was grilled and seasoned to perfection.
Hannah devoured the scallop special (£18.5) served with coppa ham, pea puree and pea shoots. Delicious and absolutely stunning.
Mains to Share
If you don’t fancy a steak, then there are a few mains to share which I think is a great idea.
The whole sea bass is filled with a cockle ratatouille, served with the most perfect little croquettes and a side of minted peas which we ordered separately.
This dish was as good as it looks, and is probably the best seafood dish I’ve eaten all year. The waiter expertly served the fish at the table, and if any of the other sharing dishes are half as good at this they’re worth trying!
And as we patiently waited for our plates of seafood to be served, this happened:
The waiter, after dismantling the sea bass and serving it without a flinch, carefully placed the fish head on a side plate on our table. “You must try the cheek – the best and most tender part of the fish!” and he wasn’t wrong, it was divine. I thought that was a really nice and charming touch.
Coffees and Desserts
As you know I’m not a pudding kind of girl. But, I absolutely had to try the Manchester Tart.
We ordered it to share with a coffee which was as good as a top Manchester barista would prepare. And the tart was just that – tangy raspberries and amazing miniature dollops of meringue! A great way to finish a fantastic dinner for two.
Overall, our experience dining at the top of No.1 Spinningfields was delightful. It’s a warm and welcoming atmosphere that’s not pretentious at all and that’s mainly down to how the staff treat you.
I’d recommend this place if you want to eat modern British food cooked and served to absolute perfection whilst taking in the striking views of the city. It’s perfect for romantic or special occasions without a doubt.
And if you want to spot most of Manchester’s iconic landmarks you’ll have to visit the swanky bathrooms that overlook Deansgate, Manchester Town Hall and everything in between and beyond!