Ladies and gentleman, I have your new favourite restaurant.
I know, I know, bold statement. But trust me, this place has possibly the best Japanese food Manchester has to offer, and you’ll be soy happy I told you about it…
Set just on the cusp of the Northern Quarter on Newton Street, Cottonopolis has successfully managed to create a home for leather, copper interior AND a dazzling menu of cocktails and sophisticated Asian eats.
Entering the warmth of the restaurant on an early Saturday evening, my partner and I were initially worried we had stumbled unsuspectingly into a pretentious establishment. With bespoke furniture and glowing liquor shelves, they really had every opportunity to be; but with relaxed service and friendly, down-to-earth servers, Cottonopolis evokes a welcoming ambience that eases you in effortlessly.
Starting our evening off with some pun-tastic cocktails, (including my personal favourite; Sake-Way Night Fever, WITH glitter in the glass). We admired the combinations created by the talented mixologists behind the bar and studied the menu, hungry to sample whatever smells were wafting their way to us from the kitchen.
We ordered a selection of dishes as well as their Special of the Day, advised to us by our server which comprised a 15 piece sushi platter made up of the fresh seafood from their daily delivery along with oysters on the rocks for £30.
The Chicken Gyoza arrived first in a bamboo steamer basket. Lifting the lid released a copious amount of mist before revealing the mother load; delicately wrapped gyoza, perfectly plump, enjoying a relaxing steam on a trio of banana leaves.
Despite burning our mouths in the eagerness to get stuck in, the dumpling was everything I had hoped for and more. Perfectly sticky yet soft, each one was the most marvellous mouthful balancing delicate flavours of minced chicken with soft hints of cabbage and onion, seasoned with ginger and other spices I was too caught up in the moment to register.
Next up was the baos, or wait, do I mean “wows”? Those fluffy, doughy handfuls of wonder…where do I even start?
Stuffed to the brim with crispy pork belly, shards of sharp chilli, onion and cooling cucumber, these babies were loaded with piping hot, rich and complimentary flavours.
Now, I don’t want to oversell these, but they were possible the greatest thing I have ever put in my mouth.
Chomping through the soft bun like a hot cloud sandwich, I dragged the bao through the peanut dip and sank my teeth into its sticky delectableness, the salty flavours contrasting deliciously with the sweet glaze of pork belly.
Regardless of your trip to Cottonopolis, whether it’s for an after-work drink or popping in to check out the joint – do not leave without ordering the baos; they will change your life.
Our sushi platter was the real hurrah to our evening; a bountiful array of Maki, Nigiri and Sashimi arrived on a stretched plate chaperoned by two oysters, its arrival attracting jealous glances from fellow diners close by. It was really was quite the spread for just the two of us, but hey! That’s just how we roll.
We dived in for the oysters which for me were sadly a bit of a non-event. I’m glad I finally tried one, however unless I get the strong craving for sea water, I shan’t feel the need to order them again.
Excited to sample the rest of the feast, I sashimi’ed over to the remainder of the platter and devoured every roll as my chopsticks would let me.
Highlights of the platter were most definitely the Unagi; freshwater eel pressed delicately onto sticky squares of rice, the octopus and avocado rolls.
Fresh, flavourful and eye-rollingly moreish, each prepared portion of sushi was a work of delicious art and easily the best I’ve ever tasted. It was a total unexpected highlight to the evening and I would definitely recommend you ordering their Platter of the Day when you visit, a great way to sample a bit of everything and Maki your meal that bit more special.
The atmosphere was lively and busy, but not overbearingly. The spacious set up and varying levels of high tables and chairs to squishy chesterfields and low coffee tables allows Cottonopolis to make the most of the space it has.
Cleverly positioned mirrors widen the space further, giving off the feel of a never-ending dining area, and the open kitchen makes for an excellent mid-meal show.
We stood up regretfully, leaving feeling more stuffed than two pork baos but exclaiming our eagerness to return as soon as possible.
If you’re looking for your next date night or are after a new favourite restaurant, I highly recommend you give this place your evening. You can make a booking online or give the guys a call to reserve a table, but I would book early to avoid disappointment, it seems just about everyone is cottoning on to its excellence.