‘I can hear the restau­rant snobs clutch­ing their pearls from here’

The Guardian - Feast - - News - Grace Dent

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

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