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Damson, MediaCityUK, Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield finds a place at The Quays fit for dining

Written by . Published on April 11th 2013.

Damson, MediaCityUK, Reviewed

PUT Damson at The Quays on your list of top ten North West restaurants to visit this year. 

This is what the first floor venue delivers, excellent food, one of the best wine lists in the region, well-trained staff who know how to be efficient while carrying a smile, a sharp interior and perhaps the best view from a Manchester or Salford restaurant.

The light quality you get down at the Quays sat, as it is, in a natural bowl filled with water is quite extraordinary. It complements the limpid food and drink perfectly. 

The team at Damson is led by a former winner of the Manchester Food and Drink Festival's Outstanding Contribution Award Steve Pilling, and Simon Stanley, a chef who knows how to combine exciting flavours with handsome presentation. The new place is the Salford sister of the award-winning Heaton Moor, Damson, and the cousin of the equally award-winning Red Lion in High Lane. 

Steve Pilling and a recommendationSteve Pilling and a wine recommendation

There are a number of menus. These are to entice the BBC hordes that work on the MediaCityUK estate, the pre-theatre crowd on their way to the Lowry shows, and the serious foodies on a grub-chasing night out. 

I've been to Damson on at least three occasions and tried both the a la carte and the working lunch menus. It's been a real pleasure.

A starter of veloute of white beans and potato with mushroom crisps and truffle cream (£3.95 - working lunch menu) was refined but still rugged with the earthy notes of the robust tubers, legumes and funghi - maybe a touch more truffle oil would have lifted it further. 


The main courses have all been outstanding.

The roasted rump of lamb (with creamed Jersey Royals, new season asparagus, roasted garlic puree and salsa verde, £19.95 - a la carte menu) was special. The juicy lamb lay medium rare on the plate and said come and get me big boy. The creamed Jersey Royals were so creamy and yet spuddy I almost wanted to forgive the Channel Islands for being grasping tax-havens. Superb. 

The lambThe lamb

The confit Gressingham duck leg (with saute potatoes, spinach, green beans, garlic shallot and port wine sauce, £12.95 - working lunch menu) was an absolute picture. The duck cut and fell succulently onto the fork and bundled with the beans, shallot, sauce and greens was an effortless essay in elegant strength.

Devine duckDevine duck

The cep and rosemary lasagne (with toasted hazelnuts and balsamic and baby spinach, roquette and Parmesan salad, £9.95 - working lunch menu) will delight vegetarians because it certainly delighted the meat eaters trying it. The key was the balance between the ingredients - the hazelnuts and balsamic were a presence but not overwhelmingly so. Rush here to try this veggie people.


Meanwhile a grilled fillet of hake (with ragout of cockles, fennel, and cherry tomatoes, chorizo and red pepper vinaigrette, £9.95 - working lunch menu) was again a picture, enlivening the tastebuds with a carefully constructed ragout. As a little caveat here, Damson have to take care that the collation isn't too watery at the base. 


Desserts after the fandango of the previous courses were slightly disappointing.

The tart in the lemon tart, rhubarb and raspberry sorbet (£4.95 - working lunch menu) was nigh perfect as were the filo and sponge in the iced lemon chiboust, almond filo crisp, warm citrus sponge and raspberry foam (£6.95 - a la carte menu), but both desserts were lacking in an essential element in puddings of this nature.

The chiboustThe chiboust

They both lacked sufficient sweetness and occasionally the bitter characteristics were too prominent. Bit of tweaking needs to be done here. 

There isn't room to mention the exceptional wines at Damson, that needs another article. Look at the picture below, but remember there are wines for every wallet size; Steve Pilling found me a joyous Brouilly Beaujolais that jigged happily with the lamb. 

Part of the wine listPart of the wine list

And then there's a view which takes in the Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry, the sweet foreground landscaping and trams sliding in and out of the station like child's toys. You can watch the view for hours.

That gorgeous viewThat gorgeous view

The only downside to Damson is finding it.

Located in something called the Orange Building which isn't Orange, it has an external door that seems reluctant to open and an underwhelming sign above - let's give that a neon blast boys.

The best way to dig Damson out is find Prezzo, a mid-range 'Italian' chain and then look up, Damson is on the first floor, and the entrance is down the side.

Another problem and not just for Damson but also the fabulous Booths store, Wagamamas, Holiday Inn and any other business down at MediaCityUK is there's no taxi rank. Despite the BBC presence, the whole estate is owned by Peel Group, née Manchester Ship Canal Company, and they have an idiotic policy about not allowing a taxi rank on site. Ridiculous. Why?

View from the landscaped area of the Imperial War Museum NorthView from the landscaped area of the Imperial War Museum North

Law unto themselves Peel, although we have to be grateful they've delivered MediaCityUK for us with the right the landscaping. And also inviting a team as talented as Pilling and Stanley to open up Damson. 

It always surprises me how few Greater Mancunians have been for a walk around The Quays and through MediaCityUK.

For me, doing the bridges is the perfect Sunday morning stroll.

Start on the Trafford side at Imperial War Museum North, walk over the MediaCity swing footbridge, through the BBC buildings, maybe purchase a tasty snack at Booths, take a break in the gardens, then return via the crazy wet-suited swimmers in Dock Nine, the shiny Lowry, and over the lift footbridge to the start point. 

The light quality you get down at the Quays sat, as it is, in a natural bowl filled with water is quite extraordinary.

We can now add another attraction to the walk.

I might set off a little later and take in a lazy vinous lunch at Damson. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here@JonathSchofield or connect via Google+


Damson, Orange Building, MediaCityUK, Salford, Manchester. 0161 751 7020

Rating: 15.75/20 

Food: 7.75/10 (lasagne 8, duck 8.5, tart 6.5, veloute 7.5, lamb 8.5, hake 7.5, bread 8.5, chiboust 7.5)
Service: 4/5
Ambience: 4/5 (Bonus points for the best view from a Manchester restaurant. Kaleido on top of Urbis and the National Football Museum should clearly run away with this accolade but it's hard to see out of the striated windows if you sit in the wrong place).

PLEASE NOTE: 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, we get carried away.

 View from inside Damson

View from inside Damson

DamsonInside Damson 

Lemon tartLemon tart

Greens for the lasagneGreens for the lasagne

Tourists on the footbridge from the Imperial War Museum North leading to DamsonTourists on the footbridge from the Imperial War Museum North leading to Damson

Landscaping Outside DamsonLandscaping outside Damson

Sunrise over the QuaysSunrise over the Quays

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

IanApril 11th 2013.

Looking forward to visiting here next month

Chris HandleyApril 11th 2013.

There is a 'taxi rank' outside the Holiday Inn, just around the corner. Not an official one, but theres always a taxi close to hand, otherwise the hotel can order one for you.

Also, a new brighter sign over the entrance is already in place, with a board on the plaza, pointing down the side street on which Damson is located.

A decent and fair review, and Damson is a welcome addition addition to the Quays' hoardes of chains.

Justin MooreApril 11th 2013.

The food is absolutely gawjus here! I went recently with a group of friends and we all had different meals - we all had clean plates by then end of the meal and happy tummy's! i would certainly recommend it! :)

DavidApril 11th 2013.

There is no such thing as "Greater Mancunians".Even if the people of Bolton,Oldham etc accept that they are in Greater Manchester rather than Lancashire,which most don't,they would never never accept being called Mancunians.They have no wish to be colonised by Manchester.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
TimbucApril 11th 2013.

I live in Bolton and have always considered myself in Lancashire. On the other hand, I'm not so afeared of being colonised by Manchester nor lacking in humour that I'll get my knickers in a twist over some tongue in cheek comment about Greater Mancunians in a restaurant review. Jeez Louise.

TimbucApril 11th 2013.

PS More on topic. I adore Damson in Heaton Moor and can't wait to get out to try the MediaCity outpost. That El Bulli wine is bloody lovely.

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

What a tedious non contribution David. Bore off elsewhere please.

Tim KitsonApril 11th 2013.

Dear me..Eeee by gum...We are Lancastrians..Yawn...Sounds a great new place to dine...

Eugene Spain)April 12th 2013.

David,Cool down man ! It is only a restaurant review,not a dissertation on local geography.I know where you are coming from.Oldham or Bolton once a Joskin (Yonner etc) always a Joskin.Chill

AnonymousApril 12th 2013.

Thanks for your pointless rant, David.

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

Ate here with large group of friends couple of sundays ago. Very impressed with Sunday set menu, lovely decor and very friendly/knowledgeable staff. Highly recommend.

Steve CookApril 11th 2013.

I have been twice now, evening meal & Sunday lunch and have loved every course (even has a second desert with the Sunday lunch!).
Plenty of wine to choose from at the lower end of the price scale which is always a positive.
Highly recommend.

Lucy HowardApril 11th 2013.

I went here to eat whilst watching the runners in the Speed of Light in March and must agree that the food is amazing, also has fantastic views of Media City at night. Definately visiting again soon.

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

Fabulous Sunday lunch and the most amazing Cappuccino Crème Brûlée.

Micheal JacobApril 11th 2013.

Can only join the praise - excellent food, affordable wine, charming service, lovely room, great views. The doughnuts with my Catalan tart were so good I wanted to ask if they did takeaway.

FionaApril 11th 2013.

Ive been so often since it opened, If I'm not invited on the staff Christmas 'do' ~ I shall be cross! The food, the wine, the vista, the staff, are all an outstanding pleasure. The early taster menu for the early bird or the theatre goer is indeed a real treat and the menu changed monthly. If you are blessed, as I, and reside in the great metropolis of Salford, then for a great night out on a wet tuesday/wednesday - just 25quid, yes 25quid will obtain a theatre marvel for a fiver and a choice of three courses on the taste menu at Damsons. no need to rush, you may finish your last course after the performance, perhaps washed down with an excellent coffee or a great digestive, whatever its all for under 25quid! Seriously, who the buggering bollocks would wish to stay in with so much culture and fabulous food for the picking! As easy as taking the wings of insects .... but much more delicious.
I love Salford
Porky Pig Face

Graeme WoodApril 11th 2013.

As frequent visitors to the fantastic Heaton Moor Damson, we recently ventured into MediaCity to try the newly opened Damson in the heart of the 'city'. We were skeptical as to whether a modern interpretation would work. Our doubts were quashed - the ambience, food and wine quality were superb and very 'Damsonesque'- Pilling has pulled it off again and deserves every success with this venture.

David Edwards-KielyApril 11th 2013.


Manchester has at last a real restaurant , only taken 20 odd years, well done pill on creating not only food wine, but the design and atmosphere are fantastic.

if you live within 30miles you should be visiting 2 a month, go on treat yourself to a fabulous time day or night.

tell them OBI WON SENT YOU

Melissa ConnellyApril 11th 2013.

Is this the place that you were slagging off before it opened last year?

food for thoughtApril 11th 2013.

Saggy skin on the duck........

AnonymousApril 11th 2013.

Excellent food, cocktails, views, booths and atmosphere. Easily one of the best restaurants in town. Amazing decor too, well worth the tram from the city centre. The fillet steak was UNREAL and the gnocchi starter was amazing too! Mouthwatering food in a spectacular location!

Mike NooneApril 12th 2013.

going to Damson@media city for our third visit
this sunday
really looking forward to it
they just keep getting better

food for thoughtApril 12th 2013.

Saggy skin on the fish too

Christine KilbyApril 13th 2013.

I was so impressed with this restaurant that I posted a review on Trip Advisor immediately after I visited for the first time on a recent sunny day in the Quays. It is outstanding. I have eaten there twice now and have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. The staff are also exceptional. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

AnonymousApril 15th 2013.

We ate here over the weekend. Service was spot on from the minute we arrived. Just like the review above, the lamb was cooked to perfection. Great wine list, and a very good cheeseboard too.

Definitely somewhere that deserves support, really hope they flourish here.

Tony DoyleApril 16th 2013.

I had the Caesar Salad starter and Hake as a main both from the Working Lunch menu.
Not only could I not find fault with either, they both blew me away, exceptional food and exceptional value.
The whole Damson experience was made my week.
Highly recommend.

AnonymousApril 18th 2013.

"And then there's a view which takes in the Imperial War Museum North, the Lowry, the sweet foreground landscaping and trams sliding in and out of the station like child's toys. You can watch the view for hours".

Steady on, it's hardly the sunset at Santorini or Manhattan by night, is it?

Jonathan SchofieldApril 18th 2013.

Yes it is the same sunset Anon. Same sun anyway. It's a species of narrowmindedness not to put yourself in the shoes of others. For somebody visiting a football match and going for a meal in Manchester having flown halfway across the world is just as exotic as you and your sunset in the burnt out, blanched, island of Santorini. I've added a picture above for you of sunrise at the Quays

AnonymousApril 18th 2013.

Love the Google Streetview function on their website!


1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousApril 18th 2013.

You can even go down the stairs and outside! Brilliant.

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