Lunch at 20 Stories was a very thoughtful Virgin Experience gift from a family member (Thanks, Dan). And, like all the best gifts, this one comes with a bit of glitz and glamour. It’s located in Hardman Square in Spinningfields, almost on the spot where I used to work at the College of Building, on the then Hardman Street in the early 1970s. It’s on the 19th floor of the building. Yes, I know – 20 Stories yet 19th Floor. But that’s stories, not storeys (I knew that English Language “O” Level would come in useful one day). So, I have a story to tell about lunch.
So, the glitz and glamour bit. Well, I suppose it starts with the view. It’s the best restaurant view in the city by far. It was a sunny day and you could see for miles, even if the foreground was Salford. The room is very modern with the restaurant bit at one end and a large bar area at the other. And there’s the outside terrace which I bet is lovely in July. And there’s the staff, also all very trendy but also, so thin that you’d think the restaurant could do with feeding them up.
There’s a good looking “a la carte” menu but our gift was for the short fixed price lunch menu – three choices at each course. To start for one of us was a classic and well made Caesar salad. For the other, a crayfish and watermelon cocktail with a bit of salad, a Bloody Mary dressing and a bit of toasted brioche. No complaints there.
Roast chicken supreme came with champ, wilted cabbage and a very decent chickeny sauce. It’s just the sort of unchallenging plate of food that you’re going to enjoy hoovering up on a midweek lunchtime. Roast butternut squash wasn’t as successful but the issue wasn’t the “steak” of squash but the topping of a heavy drizzle of vegan cheese and a slight lack of seasoning. This is the second time we’ve been served vegan cheese in a restaurant. Hopefully it will be the last. Let’s be honest, this just isn’t cheese. And it isn’t very nice, either. There’s a scattering of frisee and pinenuts. We shared a tomato salad.
The third course was probably the most successful. One of us took the lemon tart. Crisp pastry, quite a lemony filling, a fabulous raspberry sorbet (which may have been the best thing I ate) and a sprinkling of chocolate soil. Chocolate, raspberry, chocolate – what’s not to like. Across the table, a plate of cheese. In pre-Covid times, they served this from a trolley but now the server reels off the half dozen or so available cheeses and it’s plated in the kitchen. So, the choice was made for a Wensleydale, a lightly smoked Cheddar and Shorrocks Lancashire Bomb (which is probably the finest Lancashire you’re going to come across). And it’s a generous portion of each, set out on a wooden board, along with lovely homemade crackers and chutney. And a small piece of fruit cake and slices of celery. Pretty much a classic presentation in this part of the world and, wonder of wonders, it wasn’t fridge cold as so many places serve it, ruining the flavour. . And they give you a knife and fork to eat it with, in the French fashion. Full marks all round.
We finished with good espresso.