Its reputation has transgressed new heights in recent years, and whatever your opinion of it (if you have one) The Hilton’s Cloud 23 in Deansgate is incredibly profitable and has a hugely loyal fan base in Manchester.
Touted as a venue for an extra special occasion, when I arrived at the reception on Saturday night I wasn’t surprised to see that everyone in the queue was dressed as though they were going to a wedding or auditioning as extras for Geordie Shore.
When you take the elevator up to the 23rd floor (make sure you book or you’ll be in the queue til you’re old and grey) and step out, Cloud 23 is a vast space, if a lot dimmer than I expected (our party were sat by the window at around 7pm and we were struggling a little to read the menu.) This may just be a clever tactic to emphasise the view – which was to be fair, pretty extraordinary – the city-wide scope made the bright lights of Manchester look not so different to those of London or Dubai and the atmosphere in the room was mixed and electrifying.
Ladies who lunch were tipsily finishing off their afternoon tea nearby suited and booted gents enjoying a few bevvies before a night out, elegant couples and friends of all ages were taking advantage of the extravagant bar and everybody looked like they were having a great time.
We started with the homemade twice-cooked fat chips and dips and peanut satay popcorn (£6.50 and £3.50, respectively) – the chips were the ‘proper’ kind, not wilted sad-looking french fries but fluffy-on-the-inside-yet-crispy-on-the-outside pieces of heaven accompanied by mouth-watering sour cream and chive and barbecue dips.
Hungry yet not wanting to wait to order one of the bar’s signature cocktails, these were the perfect small plates to soak up the alcohol, on which subject…
A “multiple award-winning” concoction priced at £14, this baby was my aperitif, so to speak, and it’s jam-packed with all those fragrant lemon, orange and pineapple flavours that I could quite happily drown it, topped off with cherry liqueur and ‘spanked’ with champagne (their phrase, not mine) producing a Bellini-esque drink to put all other Bellinis to shame.
Something truly special to begin your meal if you’re feeling a little flush.
Ketel One Citron Vodka are mixed with Cranberries, Blackberries & Butterscotch to create this taste sensation to take you back to your childhood. A long and refreshing sipper priced at £13 – still steep, granted, but well worth it for a celebration.
The taste of butterscotch lasts in your mouth for ages and it’s no bad thing, trust me!
One thing I’d say here and it’s not a criticism of the place itself, more a forewarning so you can adequately line your stomach. The menu has options which sound like main courses (the steak and lamb ensemble for example) but they really are more like tapas so if you don’t want to spend 15 quid on one starter-sized plate then make sure you eat beforehand – the same can’t be said for the afternoon tea, however, which looked very ample, not to mention delicious.
We opted for the chicken fillet strips marinated in chilli & lime with mint yoghurt & ‘Asian slaw’ and the roasted flat mushrooms topped with Applewood rarebit and caramelised red onion, with roasted vine tomatoes and wilted greens. The chicken was tender, moist and delicately coated (sounds simple but difficult to accomplish) and the mushrooms were absolutely mouthwatering – a real rainbow of a dish that looked almost too good to eat (almost.)
If you live in Manchester and haven’t been – you have to do it. Save up and go as a treat to experience it – but go in the day for a few bevvies or an afternoon tea to remember if you really want to see what all the hype is about.