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Friday, 16 August 2013

The Tasting Menu at Damson Heaton Moor: Cruel Chef Stanley Makes Innocent Girl Eat Too Much

Now, whilst I am not particularly known for my sense of moderation and restraint, I must warn you that this is going to be a pretty greedy post, even for me. So I'm simply going to breeze through the nine courses I troughed at Damson in Heaton Moor as part of a special taster menu on Wednesday night, and will be gone again before anyone notices how much I actually ate - a bit like a stealth greed ninja, if you like.

1. Mushroom Soup with Truffle Sauce. A dainty little cup of rich, smooth soup with the extra excitement of a generous drizzle of earthy, heady truffle. Looked less dainty with my greedy face trying to extract the last vestiges.

2. Amuse Bouche of Scallop Tartare, Salt and Pepper Squid, Whitby Crab and Avocado Puree. One tantalising, exquisite spoon of ocean joy - really fresh, clean flavours and a lingering feeling of wanting to eat the spoon as well, lest any traces remained.

3. Vegetable Risotto with Chorizo, Pesto, Roasted Tomato and a Parmesan Crisp. Chef Stanley makes the best risotto in town - end of story.

4. Chicken Liver and Poie Gras Parfait. I always promise myself I'll order a different starter when I go to Damson, and yet always end up ordering this. It is rich, indulgent and to be honest, far better served in this smaller size than the generous slab you get in the full starter portion, which I always eat every last smear of, and then complain vociferously about my own greed.

5. Salmon with Peas, Smoked Bacon and Lemon Foam. A perfect little rectangle of salmon with some well-judged accompaniments - I'm not normally a fan of foamy things (I think it comes from being brought up in the country - restaurant foam always puts me in mind a little of cuckoo spit), but here the slight sweetness of the lemon worked beautifully with the saltiness of the bacon and the freshness of the peas.

6. Rump Steak with Sauteed Mushrooms and Spinach. This tends to be what I order off the main menu anyway, so I was delighted to see these tender pink slices appear with an enormous portion of really good, fat chips on the side.

7. Vanilla Cheesecake with Wimberry Compote and Liquorice Ice Cream. I'm not much of a pudding person, but both our desserts were knockout - this vanilla seed-flecked cheesecake wasn't too sweet, and the liquorice ice cream was possibly my favourite flavour of the night. One tiny criticism? I didn't think wimberry compote really went with the rest of the dish and found the three flavours together a bit much - still, what do I know? I still ate it, anyway.

8. Chocolate and Peanut Butter Ganache with Raspberry Sorbet and Vanilla Salt. Peanut butter is one of my very favourite things, and often eaten straight from the jar, standing up (fewer calories that way), so what a treat to have it as part of a properly grown-up, sultry dessert. The saltiness of the peanut butter base and the vanilla salt on the top perfectly balanced the richness of the chocolate, whilst the tartness of the sorbet cut through everything and avoided that cloyingness that peanut butter sometimes has.

9. Cheese, Cheese and more Cheese. I love the cheese course at Damson - they simply wheel over a trolley, whilst you just sit fatly in your chair and point at the ones you want. My criteria here were clear and straightforward: all the blue ones, please, and all the stinky runny ones that look as if they are about to ooze their way off the trolley into a puddle on the floor.

And at that point, I decided enough was enough and - not wishing to appear greedy - put down my knife and fork and stepped (/rolled) away from the table. You can find out more about the amazing Damson Tasting Menu here - it's always a pleasure to be cooked for by Simon Stanley, and on this evidence he is currently on particularly fine form. We paid for our meal but Simon knew it was a special occasion and sent us out one or two extras - the regular menu offers six courses. Which actually, if you skim through this post really quickly, is pretty much what I had...

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