Of all the restaurants I’ve ever eaten in (and they are many and varied), Damson remains my favourite – and not just because of the food.
Make no mistake, the food here is consistently delicious. But there’s that friendly, convivial vibe as well; the calm, relaxing decor; and the understated professionalism of the front of house team.
We’re here tonight for the early bird menu, which offers two courses for £16.95, or three for £19.95. Of course, we will eat three. The portions here are perfectly balanced, leaving the diner satisfied but not too full. There’s always room for one of their exquisite puddings.
To start, I opt for the tartare of Cheshire beef fillet, while Philip has a chicken Caesar salad. The tartare is light and fresh and melts in the mouth, but Philip’s salad is even better. There’s an egg, which has been caught at exactly that moment between soft and hard, its orange yolk glistening most attractively. It’s anchovy-rich, a creamy delight of a starter, and certainly whets the appetite for what is yet to come.
Next up, I have the grilled fillet of sea bass, which comes with pesto creamed potato. Again, this is note-perfect, the fish all crispy skin and moist soft flesh. Olives and tomatoes add piquancy to the dish. I want to lick my plate. Philip has the roasted rump of lamb (for a supplement of £5); this comes with goats’ cheese mash, sweetbreads, braised baby gem, peas, broad beans and morels. It sounds like hearty fare, but it’s as delicate as can be, and the lamb is softer and richer than any I’ve tasted before.
Then there’s the pudding. Philip has the creme fraiche tart with crushed raspberries and strawberry sorbet, a sweet-sharp combination that literally has him whimpering with delight. I go for the chocolate cremeux with macerated strawberries and vanilla ice cream, the richness of the chocolate perfectly offset by the freshness of the fruit.
We’ve eaten in restaurants with bigger reputations than Damson, but nowhere else we’ve been to has yet rivalled it for such unpretentious but accomplished food. There is confidence here, and care too, and it makes for a most satisfying experience. We’ll certainly be back for more.