It’s not our usual practise to re-review a restaurant only a few weeks after we’ve visited, but in Damson’s case, our previous visit was spectacularly mistimed – only a few weeks before the place was given a major refurbishment and the menu overhauled. What’s more, since Steve Pilling’s establishment sets the bar for dining on ‘the Moor’ and because it was Susan’s birthday, now seemed as good a time as any to make an exception to the rule.
Apart from a few touches, Damson hasn’t changed that much inside, but the exterior has been completely repainted and the terrace is now surrounded by higher wooden enclosures, liberally planted with flowers and shrubs, while the seating and tables have all been replaced. It’s now an absolute pleasure to sit out in sunny weather with a drink (assuming, that is, that you can find such weather in Stockport!)
As for the menu, there’s a new selection of reasonably priced cocktails on offer and some sharing platters, one of which we decided to try instead of a conventional starter (though the platters are usually available only on the lunch menu.) These are generously sized wooden boards, which come loaded with four kinds of cured meat, four kinds of cheese, plenty of sourdough bread, butter, chutney, homemade pickles and your choice of three jars, each one packed with a delicious spread – there are eight jars to choose from. We opted for Duck with potted pear and hazelnut, Whitby Crab and Crayfish with avocado and Herb Goat’s Curd with salt baked beetroot. To say that each of these was delicious would be something of an understatement. They were, quite frankly, exquisite. A sharing board costs just £15 and at lunchtime, accompanied by a drink, are clearly a brilliant idea for two diners.
But this was a birthday evening so we moved on to a couple of main courses from the new set menu, now available till 9.30 on a weekday and till 6.30 at the weekend. it costs £15 for a main course, £20 for two courses and £25 for three. My choice was the Slow Cooked Middle White Pork Belly with apricot, pak choy, curried lentils and potato. As ever, this was note perfect, the mildy spiced lentils proving the perfect accompaniment to that succulent, mouth-watering meat. Susan sampled the Grilled Fillet of Mackerel, with pesto creamed potato, tomato, olives, coriander and lemon. The fish was perfectly cooked, with a crispy exterior and a moist, richly flavoured interior, the intense flavour perfectly counterpointed by the delicately flavoured pesto mash.
Would there be room for any of those delicious desserts? Sadly no, mainly because the sharer had been so generously proportioned, but I’m not complaining. (See our previous review for our thoughts on Damson’s desserts!) Suffice to say that after six years, Damson is not resting on its laurels and the Moor’s other contenders are going to have to work really hard if they hope to challenge its dominance. Our meal with a decent bottle of Pino Grigio came to around £65, proof positive that you don’t have to pay out a fortune for fine cuisine.