This time last week, I was bemoaning the heat. A short walk into Didsbury and back had rendered me virtually unconscious, able to do little other than fling myself onto the sofa and lie there, simultaneously cross and languid, loudly complaining and baying for cold beer. I'm ready for Autumn, I cried, for sweaters, and casseroles, and blankets, and the heating coming on in the evenings while you watch Strictly and idly leaf through Christmas catalogues; begone, unseasonably warm nonsense!
Well, sometimes you get what you wish for; today is wet, cold and miserable to a quite unreasonable degree. Thank heavens, then, for lunch at Damson - a bright, shining beacon in the midst of an otherwise dreary, colourless day (although I do have a range of party food in for Strictly later - never let it be said that you can't buy class...)
Damson opened to rave reviews in 2009, and obviously I meant to go and try it out as soon as possible. Now, just two and a half short years later, I have finally got off my backside and made the arduous trek across the border into deepest, darkest Heaton Moor - where I was rewarded with a meal of the very highest quality. The restaurant itself is stunning, all polished floorboards and tastefully upholstered chairs (a little like I hope my own house might look if it wasn't continually besmirched by layers of cat hair and socks discarded by untidy husbands), and appeared as nothing less than an oasis of warmth and comfort for those coming in out of the rain.
We ate from the set menu, which offers extraordinarily good value at £13.95 for two courses or £16.95 for three, with a choice of three options for each course. We both started with the Veloute of Cauliflower and Parmesan - a gloriously silky, warming soup offering a perfect combination of comfortingly bland creaminess and earthily tasty cruciferous-ness. I make cauliflower soup myself quite often, and Mr Liz has never, ever eaten my version with anything like so much enthusiasm, so I suspect the cream to vegetable ratio was quite high with this one; certainly both bowls were left embarrassingly spotless.
Next up, we both had had Pan-fried Lamb Liver, Crushed Minted Peas, Colcannon Potatoes, Slow Roasted Garlic, and Lamb Jus, and I can assure you we polished this off in far less time than it has just taken me to type it all out. The liver was perfect - caramelised on the outside but meltingly pink in the middle, and beautifully complemented by the rich lamb jus and the zingily fresh peas. And yes, we have both eaten a couple of whole garlic cloves apiece, so I pity the fool who tries to get close to either of us this evening *watches disgruntled cat slink away, offended by evil smell emanating from both parents*
And so to dessert. Here we daringly went our own separate ways, with Mr Liz opting for Caramel Panna Cotta, Crushed Raspberries and Honeycomb, and his better half choosing Chocolate and Chestnut Parfait with Pumpkin Sorbet. Astonishingly, these were even nicer than they sound; mine in particular, with its clever combination of Summer textures and Autumn flavours, reminding me exactly why I like this time of year so much (to be fair, we were tucked away in the back corner of the restaurant, allowing me to imagine that the streets outside were full of rosy cheeked children merrily kicking crisp leaves about rather than the cross, wet shoppers whom I suspect were there in actuality).
Side dishes are available at £3.50 a go, but the portions are generous enough without needing these extras (and if I say that, you KNOW it's true), making the set menu a steal for food of this quality. The deal runs Tuesday to Saturday between 12 and 2.30pm, 12 till 5pm on a Sunday, and between 5.30 and 6.30 most evenings - check out their website for more details.
And yes, I know there aren't any pictures - a fact that should be taken as a huge compliment to the chef. And, of course, an excellent excuse to go back...
- Damson is at 113 Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, Cheshire SK4 4HY, tel. 0161 4324666, and you can follow the charming chef/proprietor Simon Stanley on Twitter (@simonjstanley69) for more food-related musings.