Cottonopolis: a cocktail of English & Japanese influences

The Manchester-coined name for the cotton trade in the 19th century, appropriately reused for the Northern Quarter’s only Japanese-inspired restaurant: Cottonopolis. Once a building used for cut-offs and spare rags during the milling industry, now a subtle homage to the industrious cultural heritage of Manchester.

Cottonopolis’ image monopolises the links to the city’s history by utilising the famous worker-bee of Manchester. Refashioned in a more structured, honey-comb like way, this signature bug with a screw for a body acts both as the logo and the source of design inspiration for Cottonopolis’ stylish interior.

Wooden structures and sharp angles characterise this almost one year old swish venue, and tasteful Japanese art adds colour to the nude-navy blues of the decor, finished with soft copper lighting which is a telling allusion to the experienced Architect background of co-owner Nick.

Though a definite Japan inspired theme to the restaurant and bar, it is in no way a novelty Japanese restaurant. You don’t have to eat with chopsticks, there’s more on the menu than sushi. They serve English breakfast tea and a cocktail called Milk & Two Sugars, though funnily enough the most popular hot drink is green tea, by a long way.

cottonopolis manchester uk liquor bottles

Intrigued to find out more about the part tea has to play in Cottonopolis’ overall experience, I spoke to Penny, head bartender, who told me of the importance of the tea drinking ceremony in the venue.

‘It’s so important. More important now than ever since we’ve started working with Quinteassential. All of the staff have had tea training, which at first they were a bit sceptical of, but after learning the mastery of tea preparation, many are saying how it’s totally changed their view’

With tea being an integral part of Japanese culture and dining, it was vital for Cottonopolis that they chose accordingly when stocking a brand of tea. The options of Green Flamingo, Garden of Eden, Tales of the Orient, Imperial Earl Grey, Cleanse and British Mint & Caramel from Quinteassential perfectly complement Cottonopolis’ style of modern, clean aesthetics with fresh and unusual flavours.

Whilst remaining unequivocally Northern-and-proud with their points to Manchester’s cotton trade and economic history, Cottonopolis also masterfully harness elements of Japanese culture, primarily in their food. As the only place doing this in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, the innovative Peruvian-meets-Japanese ‘Nikkei’ cuisine is what sets Cottonopolis apart from other venues, and provides a welcome break from the now standard pulled pork burgers and halloumi that feature on the majority of menus in the vicinity.

cottonopolis manchester uk menu japanese

With a unique menu catered for everyone with a mix of Japanese junk-food in stuffed bao buns and the popular katsu chicken curry, Cottonopolis also serve exciting and sexy creations such as miso lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine nasu, or robata grilled belly pork with crispy shallots and chilli jam. Made up of four enticing labels for the savoury courses: ice, fire, oil and steam represent the way in which the dishes are cooked. Cold, roasted, fried or, of course, steamed.

‘For those wanting a bit of both, we also have our Milk & Two Sugars cocktail, mixed with Garden of Eden and lactic acid, for a twist on a classic.’

The cocktail is a new addition to Cottonopolis’ exciting drinks menu, and I caught up with Gethin, its creator, to find out more about what inspired the concoction. ‘My girlfriend actually. She’s a huge fan of the cocktail London Fog, which is made with Earl Grey, half milk, half water, and vanilla. I wanted to do something different, still inspired by the Northern brew but fitting our bar with the floral notes moving it away from a normal tea cocktail.’

cottonopolis manchester uk bartender and drinks

‘With the cocktail, we’re both able to showcase Quinteassential and add an elegant twist to a familiar favourite. Garden of Eden is a black and green tea blend, and we add lactic acid for the milk, cocoa almond and cherry Heaven on Earth liqueur and sugar syrup are the two sugars, and it’s blended with egg white for a really interesting, sour mouthfeel.’

“People like the comfort of the very British name, and once they get past the oddity of lactic acid on the description, it’s popular as it’s on the verge of adventurous, but not pushing the boundaries too far. We love Quinteassential, but we also love a builder’s brew. At Cottonopolis we’re not about scaring people, we want to make people comfortable whilst encouraging trying something different and exciting.”

With DJs six nights out of seven, a calm but bustling atmosphere in the day, Cottonopolis is prepared and ready for diners and [tea] drinkers of Manchester. Not just for consumers, but for aficionados, food lovers, and drink connoisseurs.

With a thirst for unusual experiences and a love of culture, Ellie desires to see the world and shine a lasting beam of light upon it as she passes. Spicy, warm, soothing, healing and somewhat mysterious; that’s her down to a tea.