‘I can hear the restaurant snobs clutching their pearls from here’
Food Atmosphere Service 20 Stories
No 1 Spinningfields, 1 Hardman Square, Manchester M3, 0161-204 3333. Open lunch, all week, noon-2.15pm (2.45pm Fri & Sun). Dinner, Mon-Sat, 6-10.15pm. About £45 a head à la carte; set lunch £22.50 for two courses, £27.50 for three; all plus drinks and service As I booked 20 Stories in Manchester, it was with some concerns. 20 Stories claims, at its root, to have 20 stories. When all I want is dinner, I have slender tolerance for restaurants that mither me with “concept”. If the ethos is inspired by Shakespeare, a fictional villain or, worst of all, the chef ’s nonna’s kitchen in bygone Sicily, for God’s sake don’t send the servers to my table to “talk me through it”. Ella Canta at the Intercontinental in London, for example, is a “modernist expression of customary cuisine and colour”, but I found that a swift karate chop to the maître d’s windpipe stopped him explaining further. I’ll work out the story myself, thank you very much. It won’t be hard: most chefs have more words written on their forearms than in actual books they’ve read.
20 Stories is also a sort-of pun. It’s way up in the sky, on the 19th storey of No 1 Spinningfields, and overlooks all of Manchester. At night, the panoramic views of the city feel rather magical. The northwest, lit up, breathing, bustling, going about its business, is a lovely thing to behold, particularly as this entire floor, with its midnight-blue banquettes and sparse lighting, makes you feel as if you’re drinking chablis on the Death Star.
I ended up liking Aiden Byrne’s new place a lot. I should possibly have told him this, as for 20 minutes he sat, oblivious and on his laptop, next to me at the cocktail bar. A multimillion-pound Manchester fine-dining restaurant, by those giants D&D London, serving wild turbot with peas for 32 quid and deconstructed Manchester tarts for £8.50, ought to be triumphantly heinous. Most food served at the top of very tall things transpires to be expensive and loveless, trading on a lemming-like clientele who just want a pretty view. There’s also an outdoor terrace with living greenery and fire pits, and a less expensive grill restaurant for people who fancy only a burger, but the prices in the main restaurant will obviously attract the city’s football set and its fragrant coterie. I can hear the