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Damson, Heaton Moor

Gordo re-reviews the suburban restaurant that everybody keeps talking about

Written by . Published on April 28th 2010.

Damson, Heaton Moor

Stephen Pilling, the owner of Damsons, a restaurant in the middle class enclave of Heaton Moor, knows a thing or two about wine, can deliver a great menu and has a wardrobe full of James, the Tailor suits that would make Prince Charles envious. Dapper is the word. A charming man, but does he deliver a charming dinner?

Mr Pilling’s restaurant scores fantastically well with Gordo. As a neighbourhood restaurant you can see that it works, lots of locals have walked up from Mauldeth Road, whilst others have travelled the distance for the food. Gordo walked in at seven thirty; the next time he looked at his watch it was eleven thirty and every second had been lovely.

Gordo went to eat at Pilling’s Damson for the first time on a lovely Saturday spring evening. He took his pal Kate Leach, 'The Peach', along with him to keep him company. A very young Gordo used to go to nursery school across the road, it appears to have changed, as has Gordo and not for the better.

Gordo that is. Damsons has been hewn out of a shop, which is no disgrace; many years ago The Fat One found himself eating one of the best racks of spring lamb with rosemary jus in a similar sized restaurant housed in a sixties parade just outside Oxford. The chef patron delivered a memorable meal considering he was self-taught: his name was Raymond Blanc.

Carpaccio, slices of heaven

Mr Pilling’s restaurant wraps you up in a nice fluffy cardigan as you walk through the door, quite brilliantly decorated apart from an horrific piece of corporate banker art that looks like an IRA dirty protest from the seventies. You are welcomed by a pretty young lady at a lectern: the bar has a couple of New York stools where you can have a glass of champagne whilst having a look through the menu.

What a menu it is, wonderfully aggravating, one of those that the diner has to think about carefully, because it’s so well thought out that you can’t bloody well choose what you want.

You want everything.

Asparagus and spinach soup, slow cooked egg (£4.95) as an example. Soup, fairly normal, it wouldn’t have given Gordo the hots. But, a slow cooked egg? What’s this madness all about? Eggs are mad to begin with, but slow cooked and in a soup? Interesting.

The pan fried foie gras with rhubarb fluid gel, poached rhubarb, rhubarb and ginger jelly and toasted pain d'epice (£9.95) won the battle with Gordo though, slivers of the gently fried duck liver lying over new seasons rhubarb goodies which cut beautifully through the richness whilst the spiced crispy sliver of toast-cum-biscuit added a little extra flavour kick and just the right addition of texture. Lovely.

Duck, quack, duck, bergamot spot

The Peach got the carpaccio of dry aged beef, rocket pesto, lime salt, coriander and caper salad. (£6.95). Again, pretty faultless to Gordo’s taste buds, the lime salt coriander and capers wouldn’t have struck Gordo as being good bed fellows but they were, showing a chef who is thinking about what he is up to.

Roast breast of Gressingham duck, sautéed bok choy, spring onion, parmentier potatoes, port wine sauce, bergamot and orange (£17.95) was a good, plump breast, pink with crispy skin with a completely updated a l’orange sauce with the slightly bitter finish of the bergamot.

Mr Pilling on the rightHalibut and its wild flavours

Pan fried fillet of halibut, pomme puree, fricassee of red watercress, broad beans, peas, pickled radish and wild mushrooms, grenoblois sauce (£15.95) had The Peach declaring too many flavours. Gordo, to his shame, was so engrossed in telling lies and eating the duck, he forgot to try some. Grenobloise sauce, by the way, is a classic using buerre noisette, (brown butter), lemon and capers. Fab when done well with white fish or trout.

It’s worth mentioning the wine list, one of the region's better ones. Lots of stuff at all prices, with a well chosen list by the glass; Valenciso Reserva Rioja, 2002, is £10 a glass. It’s also served at El Bulli. Gordo chose a Chateauneuf du Pape from the Rhone valley, Domaine Chante Cigale (£38) which is doing fabulously well now. Alex Favier, in his early twenties, has taken over from his father Christian and apart from being a good looking feller, he is having a huge impact on the vinyard. Well worth a try.

Peter Paprill's beauties

The cheese board is exceptional, with choices that change regularly. It’s a board well worth having; we shared a plate. They were in tip-top condition having been out of the fridge all day. Gordo had been watching it doing the rounds of the tables for most of the evening, a much higher percentage of people were having a go; that, other restaurateurs, is because this kitchen ensure that the produce is shown at its best. The delightful Peter Paprill, aka The Cheese Detective, supplies the goodies which is always an encouraging sign.

Yoghurt and buttermilk panna cotta, cranberry compote, stem ginger ice cream (£5.95) came in a smartened-up jam jar; nice and tart, a good choice for those who don’t welcome too much sugariness. Gordo had the lemongrass brulee (£5.95). A beautifully made dish, with the right depth of burnt sugar and thickly creamy consistency that Gordo looks for. Needs more lemon grass mind you.

The cheese board

Mr Pilling’s restaurant scores fantastically well with Gordo. As a neighbourhood restaurant you can see that it works, lots of locals have walked up from Mauldeth Road, whilst others have travelled the distance for the food. Gordo walked in at seven thirty; the next time he looked at his watch it was eleven thirty and every second had been lovely.

Congratulations Mr Pilling; you, the kitchen brigade and front of house are a joy. As is the food. Even if The Peach thinks a lot is going on. Never mind her, it was a charming evening.

The room. Cosy

Follow Gordo on twitter GordoManchester

Rating: 17.25/20
Breakdown: 7.75/10 food
5/5 service
4.5/5 ambience
Address: Damson
113 Heaton Moor Road
Stockport SK4 4HY
0161 432 4666

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Matt CzyzykApril 29th 2010.

I have to say, that this is currently my favourite restaurant. I'm fortunate enough to live within walking distance, and it's great to be able to stagger home after sampling the brilliant wine, food and of course wonderful service and welcome we always get.

Isn't the Chef there a young lady with experience at The Fat Duck, and Le Manoir? I'm sure I read that somewhere.

Fantastic anyway, and as long as the standards remain so high, I shall return again and again!

Matt CzyzykApril 29th 2010.

Oh, and that cheese is absolutely amazing. Took a photo of the cheese list on my phone last time I was in, with the full intention of hunting it down.

Jane BaxterApril 29th 2010.

My favourite restaurant. I have had so many wonderful meals at Damson - always an interesting menu with something innovative and different. I love the decor too. And they do a fab Cabernet Franc for a very reasonable price. Looking forward to trying the panacotta this Friday. Yum.

Nicola DuncanApril 30th 2010.

Damson should be on any foodies list of favourite restaurants, absolutely stunning quality & attention to detail by all the staff

Jane BaxterMay 1st 2010.

The Panacotta was exceptional! And so was the mussel risotto with slow cooked tomatoes, parsley and salt and pepper squid.

GJHMay 3rd 2010.

Not as good as That Cafe imho & i've never seen a reference to it on this site?

DaveMay 10th 2010.

Been a couple of times and never been that impressed to be honest.

JonMay 19th 2010.

F%&king amazing food cooked by people that care i love it!!

EARL OF DIDSBURYMay 20th 2010.

fantastic menu the carpaccio was tasty, the lamb succulent the lemongrass brulle gorgeous and original, a lack of soft drink options was a concern and was in need of improvement but all round i would give this newcomer 8 out of 10, no doubt the earl will be back soon !

AnonymousFebruary 10th 2011.

NOTE TO 'DAVE' - if you have never been that impressed, why go back a couple of times??? very strange...or are you just one of those people who have an uneducated opinion about everything yet hasn't a positive word to say about anyone. Anyway, less of my little rant at 'DAVE'...i've visited damson several times, the food always excellent, the service exceptional the only negative i do have is that it's far too in demand and quite often at weekend it is impossible to book a table. smile dave...you might actually enjoy it.

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