This was the meal the two of us jokingly refer to as the “office Christmas party”. We’ve been holding it for 19 years, since the first Christmas after I retired and could no longer go to a real office “do”. We always try for something special that we haven’t done before. Often, we’ve travelled to London and, last year, we went to Michelin 2* Moor Hall, near Ormskirk, stopping overnight in one of their rooms. With the trains being subject to cancellations, we decided that this year, London was out and we’d go somewhere near home. Which is how we came to be having dinner at 20 Stories. We have actually been once before – for lunch – but this was the first time in the evening. It is the place for a bit of glitz and glamour with dinner. Many tables have a great view over Salford and beyond. Unfortunately, ours wasn’t one of them and we had to content ourselves with a view of Manchester city centre when we went to the toilets. Service manages to be entirely “proper”, without being at all stuffy.
Although they list two salads, worded slightly differently, it is effectively the same dish – one with scallops, the other without. It’s a nice salad – the crunch from fennel, a bitterness from chicory and a tang from orange segments. It was a light starter for the one of us who wanted a light starter. And, for the other, three scallops were perfectly cooked – a little char on the outside and just cooked through. It was nice to have the roe still attached – too many places serve it without.
For a main course, we shared a 35oz T-bone steak. It always strikes me as odd that, over 50 years since the UK generally started to use metric measurements, we still weigh steaks (and babies) in Imperial. The meat is aged for 35 days so has bags of flavour and it’s served on a board, carved off the bone. It comes with mushroom, tomato and pickled shallot but these are only garnishes and additional orders are needed – in this case, fries, dusted with Parmesan and truffle, very “al dente” tenderstem broccoli, dressed with red onion, capers and lemon. And a lovely béarnaise sauce. Festive feasting at its best, we reckoned.
Seeing as we’re in the middle of the World Cup, it seems fair to say that desserts were a game of two halves. Blueberry tart topped with Swiss meringue was no better than OK – the sort of thing you wouldnt be surprised to see at your local Waitrose. But there was a well balanced blackcurrant sorbet sat alongside. Meanwhile my chocolate fondant was the best I can recall eating. Well made sponge with a nice, slightly crisp exterior, enclosing the most perfect oozing hazelnut dark chocolate sauce. There’s a little caramel sauce and salted caramel ice cream. Everything you want from a winter dessert.