Since 20 Stories joined the Spinningfields hospitality scene in 2018, it has brought with it a new dimension of city centre dining. Aside from the view, which makes us fall in love with Manchester over and over again, their menu is exemplary of the magic that happens when a chef deviates from the norm and crafts a kitchen from passion and expertise rather than convention.
A shining example of this is the brill. In an evening with Brian Hughson, head chef at 20 Stories, we were guided through the new menu and the plans in place for their upcoming months. When asked, ‘why Brill? Why not something more conventional, like Sea Bass?’, Brian simply stated that it was Brill because that’s what he likes; and after the dish, so did we.
The brill is baked, with a Beaufort crust, shallot and thyme puree, leek and mushroom fondue. An eclectic mix of tastes and textures, the dish is as indulgent to devour as it is to behold. Brian set the tone for the new menu with his fish dishes, which were both unexpectedly indulgent. As well as the brill, you can expect to find Seared Orkney scallops, cured sardine pie and cauliflower vinaigrette. Take your time with this dish, each mouthful is potent. Both are paired beautifully with an Ontanon Vetiver Rioja 2017, which is a perfectly balanced white from their selection, with a strong sweet lead that’s quickly followed with a cutting freshness.
The Rioja was idyllic when paired with Brian’s fish dishes, but you’d be forgiven for losing many a summer evening to a glass of this delectable white and just the view of the sun setting over Manchester’s iconic skyline for company.
We challenge you to feel under-indulged after devouring either of the above dishes, but if you’d rather not take the risk on a fish based dish, we would recommend the roasted Goosnargh duck breast with pickled blackberry and foie gras club sandwich. Certainly not the dish for you if you’re in a hurry, every mouthful is rich in taste and innovative in texture. Brian reiterated that the locality of the duck is what makes it so special, though we believe that his mastery in striking the perfect sear plays a fairly integral part in making this dish such a treat.
In a bid to refresh the palate and try something a little lighter, we tried the kiwi and fine fruit salad jelly with passion fruit and creme fraiche sorbet. Daring as ever, Brian’s take on jelly and ice cream tasted anything but callow. Coupled with the NV Bodega Chandon – an Argentinian fizz with a cooling and balancing tendency, the course was frivolous and sophisticated in equal measure.
Though, if you’re looking for a real treat to finish your dinner off, we recommend the salted caramel tart, which comes with an avocado based chocolate ganache and a healthy serving of stem ginger ice cream to sweeten the bite of the salted caramel. Our only warning is that this desert begs for the mandatory 5 minute photo shoot before you devour it.
We enjoyed the tart with a glass of the Brachetto d’Acqui Alasia 2017, which was a gorgeously sweet, lightly sparkling Italian wine. As more conservative wine lovers, this particular glass wouldn’t have been our first choice from the menu, but we’ll be returning very soon to enjoy a bottle on 20 Stories’ iconic roof terrace, which is currently adorned in jungle foliage to set the scene for summer.