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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Damson Media City: Local Girl Embraces Change (and Meets Petra)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't like change. Mr Liz never ceases to mock me mercilessly about this (quite unfairly, considering that I have never taken his name in vain IN MY LIFE), finding it funny, for example, that I like my tea from particular mugs depending on the time of day - despite this being perfectly normal behaviour. Thus I had reservations about the new Damson restaurant at Media City, which opened to such universal acclaim a few weeks back: yes, of course I was pleased for the mighty team of Steve Pilling and Simon Stanley at landing such an impressive flagship, but equally, the Damson I know and love is in Heaton Moor, and this fancy new upstart needn't think it would be turning my head any time soon.

Well I went today, for lunch - and my head was turned so much it virtually fell right off. This is a simply gorgeous space, sitting proudly on the edge of the Piazza right next to the BBC and overlooking the Blue Peter garden. "Look," said Steve, casually gesturing out of the window next to our table, "there's Petra" - little realising how exciting it would be for a child of the 70s to eat their lunch in sight of their second-favourite-dead-dog-from-yesteryear (after Shep, of course). Inside, Damson Media City is exactly the same as Damson Heaton Moor - the same colours, same comfortable seating, same enticing wall made entirely of wine - but bigger, and newer, and better: I'm already in discussion with all my female friends about pretending it's someone's birthday sometime soon so that we may book the chef's table that you see here.

But of course, we've come for the food, not to loll about on velveteen banquettes (tempting as this may be) - Chef Stanley had tweeted the previous day about the set price Sunday lunch (£15.95 for two courses, £18.95 for three) and with typical suggestibility I'd been thinking about it all night. The menu changes regularly (a sample one is up on the website), but for my starter today I had creamed puy lentils with roasted Jerusalem artichokes & salsify, crispy egg, potato and truffle foam. It has taken me considerably longer to type that than it did to eat it - lentils and Jerusalem artichokes are amongst my favourite things, a list to which I now add "crispy egg" - you see it here before I broke through its crunchy coating and allowed its perfectly runny yolk to saturate the already rich lentils. It's this kind of almost casual skill that makes Damson so special, particularly as they serve all of this up in portion sizes that even Mr Liz approves of. He was most impressed with his potato & parmesan gnocchi (a relief, considering that he whispered to me "what exactly ARE gnocchi?" once the waiter had taken his order), served with sauteed wild mushrooms with parsley & garlic, slow cooked egg yolk, salted crushed hazelnuts, potato & truffle foam. Yes - he ordered it deliberately, knowing that I would have to type all that out later.

For mains, we both went for a traditional roast - I had the roast leg of lamb, and Mr Liz had the 28 day aged roast Cheshire beef. Both arrived in a generous pile of thick, pink slices, served with Yorkshire pudding, duck fat roast potatoes (three of), seasonal vegetables (including, excitingly, some kind of creamed sprouts) and Simon's superlative gravy. These options both attract a £3 surcharge on top of the set price menu but I would suggest they are worth every penny - and the rest of the restaurant's diners seemed to agree, as I couldn't see a single person who wasn't sat behind a giant globe of batter, emitting small noises of unfettered joy at discovering it to be filled with parsnips.

These two peerless courses came in at £56, including two pints of lager, a gin and tonic and a glass of wine - there are undoubtedly slightly cheaper places in Manchester to have Sunday lunch, but I would venture there are none better. And yes, that's right - TWO courses, as I daintily declined dessert on the grounds of having the appetite of a tiny bird. If only I hadn't eaten a thickly buttered hot cross bun as soon as I got home...

Damson Media City is above Prezzo on the Central Piazza, Orange Building, MediaCity, Salford M50 2HF; now I've found them, I fear they may never be rid of me.

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