Steve Pilling

La Cantina

13/05/17

Heaton Moor, Stockport

We are back in our old stamping ground and meeting friends for dinner, so it’s all good. Back in the day, of course, the logical choice would have been Steve Pilling’s Damson, a fine-dining venue that – in our humble opinion – was up there with the very best of them. But sadly, it is no more and, in its place, Steve has established not one but two new venues: Roost, a rotisserie chicken and wood-fired pizza place, and La Cantina, a tapas bar – and it’s the latter that we have chosen to visit tonight.

It’s Saturday around 7pm and the joint is busy. There’s a lively, rustic feel to the place. You cannot book seats here but, luckily, our friends have got here early enough to commandeer a table for four, so we’ve no worries on that score. We are able to enjoy a drink (Estrella Dam on draught!) and some conversation while we peruse the menu, also taking notice of the specials chalked on a board above our heads. Tapas selections cost from £4 to £6 each and we go ahead and order. The service is fast and, considering how busy the place is, really well organised. Okay, so this isn’t going to be in the same league as Damson, but clearly it’s not meant to be. This is somewhere to enjoy a drink and a tasty nibble with friends and, on that score, it succeeds.

The food is uniformly good – a grilled squid dish is particularly delicious: lemony, peppery and just chewy enough, a whole beastie served with crispy tentacles. Yum. All the usual suspects are here – a nicely spicy patatas bravas; boquerones that are fish to the power of fish; a vibrant pork and chorizo stew; a decent paella (which is also available as a takeaway from a van parked just by the entrance). But I should perhaps point out that the portions are, well, tapas-sized. Those who possess a hearty appetite (and I would proudly include myself amidst that splendid horde) may want to ensure that they select several portions apiece if they want to be sure to fully quell the hunger within.

So, come to La Cantina for boozy good times. Damson may be done and dusted but this is the perfect place to catch up with old friends – and, judging by the crowd tonight, it’s already a roaring success – so much so that another la Cantina has just opened in neighbouring Didsbury. It’s almost as though Steve actually knows what he’s doing…

As for Roost, we’ll have to leave that until the next time we’re on ‘the Moor.’

4.4 stars

Philip Caveney

The Moortop

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11/09/15

The Moortop, Heaton Moor Road

The sleepy suburb of Heaton Moor is all of a buzz at the moment – new dining establishments seem to be springing up on every corner and even the iconic Savoy cinema is currently being restored to its former glory, complete with doric columns and a programme of films that people might actually want to see. So it was interesting to hear that in the midst of all the bustle, Damson’s ebullient owner, Steve Pilling, had quietly taken over the Moortop pub, right across the road from his celebrated gourmet restaurant.

To be honest, the Moortop was always a bit of an anomaly here: it had the ambiance of your average Weatherspoons and specialised in the kind of cut price, ‘pile it high’ deep fried nosh that gives pub grub a bad name. To be fair, the latest incarnation is just a temporary stage. In the New Year, the place will be receiving a full upgrade (more of that when we have the information.) For the moment, its been given a lick of paint and offers a small but classy menu with all items reasonably priced –  the ‘proper’ Sunday dinner, complete with a tasty vegetable soup comes in at a tenner – pies and pizzas are priced around £6.75. So you don’t have to break the bank to eat here.

The afternoon we called, we presented them with something of a challenge. There were six of us to dine, three of us vegetarians – but after a little uncertainty, we all found things we were happy to eat. Susan opted for the beef dinner and it was indeed everything you’d expect. Preceded by a small bowl of deliciously creamy parsnip soup, the beef was perfectly cooked, the accompanying vegetables just al dente enough and the Yorkshire pudding (always the trickiest thing to get right)  light and crispy. The rich red wine gravy came in its own pot and made a perfect accompaniment.

One of the veggies opted for the same meal without the meat, when she was told that the chef could provide a suitably non-meat gravy. The absence of beef was compensated for by the addition of an extra Yorkshire pudding. Good move!

I sampled the Feta Cheese pie (as did two others in our party), which was satisfyingly flavoursome, the pastry crisp, the filling rich and creamy. It came accompanied with chips, a generous dollop of Manchester caviar (mushy peas) and the aforementioned red wine gravy.

The youngest member of the party wanted a Neapolitan pizza and this was provided, even though, it wasn’t supposed to be on the menu that day. It was wafer thin and crispy and big enough to make it a struggle for her to finish. (Luckily, purely in the interests of this review, we helped her out!)

All in all, a satisfying family Sunday dinner at a great value price. Would we go again? Yes, indeed! It will be interesting to see what plans Steve has for the place in 2016. In the meantime, get on down there and enjoy.

4 stars

Philip Caveney