I suspect this blog post is going to be a little short on words. Not because I don’t have any – anyone who knows me knows I can talk, and then some. But more because the images will speak far louder.
Let’s start at the beginning.
20 Stories is the latest opening on Spinningfields. In truth, it hasn’t officially opened yet (that’s on 1 March) but bookings are open and lucky bunnies, such as myself, are being welcomed in. Yes I know, I’m a jammy cow and I’m very well aware of it.
So in through the reception downstairs (the little dark door next to the building reception), and into the lift. Then you walk out to the restaurant on one side…. But your attention is taken by this view.
If you can drag yourself away, you’ll soon discover that much of the restaurant, and the external terrace, has a similar view. It’s beautiful, dizzying, and if in the future you only go for a single drink on the terrace, it’s worth it.
Speaking of the terrace, that’s sheltered (we are very good at building wind tunnels in this city) and has lots of heating (well it is only February), and a fire pit to keep you toasty.
The restaurant itself is stunning too. It’s softly lit, to enhance the impact of those views, the ceiling panel providing reflection for the spotlit tables, lots of wood, and soft muted tones. It’s plush without being overly fluffy, luxurious without feeling too shiny.
This evening, we were in the private dining room. One wall is entirely glass, allowing another view of the skyline, two soft grey marl fabric (reminding me of open office desk dividers) the last a shiny gold crocodile skin effect, covered with glass. Caught somewhere between glamour and corporate.
OK, so it’s pretty. What about the food and drink?
We were treated to six courses from Aiden Byrne’s kitchen – yes after years at Manchester House, he’s moved over to D&D the powerhouse behind 20 Stories, to consult across all their sites. The food is sourced as locally as possible – even to the extent of the bread being provided by Pollen Bakery (to a 20 Stories recipe). Whilst there are no current plans to offer a taster menu, we were treated to some of the dishes on the a la carte – so to give you an idea of what you can expect. Though it is worth noting that if the a la cart menu makes you catch your breath a little, the Grill Menu is much more relaxed, both in price and content. And one I’ll be heading in to try with Mr GFB just as soon as I can book a date in the diary.
But to our dinner:
Leek and truffle salad, confit egg yolk and goats curd. Crisp and gently astringent leek, rich truffle, umami egg yolk, earthy goat’s curd.
Roast scallop with pearl barley and black pudding granola. I rather adored this. The contrast between the nutty buttery notes of the pearl barley, the sweet soft seafood, and the crisp rice was just delightful. I could have quite happily had a big bowlful, and might have to see if I can do a paupers version at home.
Baked Jerusalem artichoke, butter poached chicken, white port and cream sauce. Crisp chicken skin and the earthiness of the artichoke, along with the sweetness of the apricot gel and the surprise of the chilled chicken with it’s herby butter coating. Not going to be for everyone, but worked for me.
Poached John Dory, langoustine, chicken and horseradish. Another favourite and as someone who is not a fan of horseradish, it was a surprise. The fish and shellfish were beautifully done, and what could have been very light, was enriched by a little hidden nugget of chicken wing,
Texel lamb, potato gnocchi, pine and chanterelles. Everyone loved this. The gnocchi was roasted and buttery, the lamb soft and earthy.
And dessert was chocolate peanut praline and caramel mousse with banana (and rum) ice cream. Think of the poshest Snickers style ice cream you have ever come across, make it posher, serve it with Oreo crumbs, peanut butter powder, and banana ice cream. The ice cream wasn’t for me, it had an overripeness which is tends to be an acquired taste, but even me with my weird chocolate rules, ate every mouthful of everything else.
The wine accompanying everything was very well selected too. The white Rioja served with the scallop was a particular hit, and the dessert wine was using Malbec grapes – another generally well received choice.
Though replete, we retired to the bar, which deserves it’s own mention – after all the spirits on offer were something I had ogled on my way past earlier in the evening. Though there are a selection of house pours on offer guided by the company, there has been a lot of thought, creativity and freedom gone into what’s sitting there. Don’t expect to see your usual range on offer, instead live a little and go for something a bit different. The staff are well trained, and knowledgeable, so you can trust them and lean a little on their expertise.
I did with this Nikka Coffey Gin Martini. And I will again.
See you at the bar?