Cottonopolis Food & Liquor
Cottonopolis is an upmarket Japanese-inspired restaurant and bar set in a former textile warehouse and Grade II-listed building in Manchester’s trendy Northern Quarter. It’s the brainchild of Nick and Hayley Muir, architect and design duo turned restaurateurs. Together, they created somewhere cool and contemporary, but that nods to Manchester’s heritage as the bustling metropolis of Britain’s 19th-century cotton industry.
Inside is industrial chic all the way. Exposed pipes and bare brickwork, steel hairpin bar stools, plush leather booths and dim-lit hanging light bulbs give it both an exclusive air and underground feel. An open kitchen shows chefs hard at work, the hissing of steam and flickering of flames creating a sense of theatre. If you want to impress, Cottonopolis is the place to go.
It’s a fact I can personally testify to, going there on a blind date when I first moved to the city — the date was immediately dreadful (after ordering drinks with the waitress he said he could never date someone who worked in the service industry as they would never be rich), but the menu was so impressive that I endured the company until after we’d eaten. Then I scarpered. Such is my dedication to eating good food.
Designed for sharing, the menu falls into four main sections: Ice, Fire, Oil, Steam. There are a couple of pricier numbers, such as the 5oz fillet steak with charred asparagus & dashi tomato at £30, the Loch Fyne scallops with maple dashi, onion kimchi & bacon crumbs at £16, or the wagyu katsu sando at £25.
Side note: If you haven’t heard of a wagyu katsu sando, check it out. The UK craze is still going strong for this highly-prized, richly fat-marbled cut of Japanese beef coated in panko breadcrumbs served between lightly fried crustless white bread. Basically, it’s the poshest beef burger you’re ever going to eat.
However, most dishes were between £7 and £9, and the portions were generous, so you could get away with just a couple per person. We plugged for the duck, plum and ginger gyoza and the kurobuta pork bao bun with pickled cucumber and peanut sauce (Steam), the kushi robata grilled skewers of asparagus with yaki, togarashi & chili soy (Fire), the tiger prawn tempura with avocado salsa & seaweed salt (Oil), and a side of sticky sesame rice.
I’m ashamed to say that, while I long to be a sushi person, I’m yet to be converted to the raw fish deal (and feel like you have to be in the safe space of good company when making bold new menu
choices), but the Ice section of the menu looked like a sushi lover’s dream. Tartare (raw and thinly sliced) of yellowfin tuna, avocado, sesame, hens’ egg & crispy lotus. Nigri (pressed into rice) of European seabass with caviar and chive. Tataki (seared and thinly sliced) of Loch Duart salmon with kumquat, yuzu and ikura.
And if you want something sweet, the Sugar section serves up classic desserts with a Japanese twist. Miso chocolate brownie with cherry & ume sauce. Chocolate & peanut article roll with salted caramel. Apple gyoza with Nikka whiskey & milk ice cream. Of course, I didn’t get that far because I’d paid up and done a runner. But I was still swept off my feet that night, if only by the restaurant, and plan to head back with company that matches the exceptional food. Cottonopolis, you’re definitely getting a second date.
By Louise Henderson, Manchester correspondent