Restaurant reviews - Damson restaurant, Heaton Moor and Leaf on Bold Street, Liverpool

Damson restaurant in Heaton Moor is one of the best of a successful new wave of neighbourhood restaurants and Meal in a Minute at Leaf on Bold Street, Liverpool

Long live the thriving neighbourhood restaurant, for the best of them have stolen the thunder of their counterparts in our big city centres, especially in the evening.

A combination of factors, chiefly the inconvenience of public transport, increasingly hostile parking regimes, a ‘‘Dodge City’’ bar culture and the unremitting onward march of the cloned national chains, is convincing more people that dining out closer to home is preferable to heading for the bright lights.

Steve Pilling’s Damson, in a quiet corner of Heaton Moor, Stockport, opened 18 months ago, since when the critical accolades have deservedly come thick and fast.

Mr Pilling, an ex-member of the Manchester Midland Hotel brigade in its heyday, has cooked for the Queen and worked at Gleneagles. But for many his most notable achievement - along with partner Roger Ward - was to rescue Manchester’s famous ‘‘Victorian’’ chop houses, Sam’s and Mr Thomas’s and propel them to national and international acclaim; best pubs, best wine lists, lifetime achievement award et al.

And now Damson has enabled Steve - along with his chef partner Simon Stanley - to indulge all his foodie enthusiasms, especially for ingredients. The bread, meat, fish and game on Damson’s constantly changing menu boast impeccable provenance and produced some of the most delightful dishes we’d encountered for a long time.

The Damson decor is modern; the atmosphere relaxing and comfortable. And the cooking is far and away more complex and sophisticated than the homely British fare of Sam’s and Mr Thomas’s (Steve serves that at the Red Lion, High Lane).

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We arrived at 7.30pm to a buzzing ambience and took our places at one of the ‘‘butcher’s block’’ square wooden pedestal tables at the far end of the dining room next to an impressive ‘‘library’’ of wine.

I began with a super combination of roasted sea scallops, Bury black pudding and a square of slow cooked middle white pork belly, spiced apple pur�e and golden raisins (�9.95), exquisitely presented on a rectangular white platter. Every component of the dish displayed terrific flavours that sang together in complete harmony and the pork in particular, meltingly moist and tender with a crisp rind, was done to perfection. Mrs K chose a faultlessly executed Whitby crab and parsley risotto with salt and vinegar cockles, packed with seafood flavours and beautifully served in an authentic risotto dish (�8.95).

The main courses too, were sublime. My perfectly pan-fried halibut came atop wilted Asian greens with fantastic rhubarb chutney, red lentil dressing and Bombay potatoes with coriander and lime cr�me fraiche served alongside in a little cast iron pan (�18.95). My wife had a real winter treat - thick cut slices of deliciously flavoured roast Goosnargh duck with orange-glazed chicory and ginger and spiced blackberry sauce providing a racy bitter-sweet accompaniment (�17.95). A side dish of excellent winter greens added �2.95.

From an exceptional wine list, a bottle of 2009 Malvasia-Verdejo (�16.95) from the Toro region, a fine example of new wave Spanish winemaking, partnered the starters and the fish, while a large glass of robust Carmen�re from Chile (�5.95) was brilliant with the duck.

There was no let up of tip-top quality and innovation with desserts with both Mrs K’s chocolate and salted butter caramel shortbread with milk ‘‘Magnum’’ ices and my vanilla cheesecake with rhubarb, ginger beer jelly and brandy snap (both desserts �6.95) providing a brilliant finale to an outstanding dinner.

Steve Pilling has created a superb neighbourhood restaurant - and made Heaton Moor a dining destination.

Ray KingDamson, 113 Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, SK4 4HY. 0161 432 4666.

Feeling fruity?

Here are three more restaurants offering fruitful dining

The Lime Tree, 8 Lapwing Lane West, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 2WS. 0871 811 4873.

Chilli Banana, King's Arms Hotel, Alderley Road, Wilmslow, SK9 1PZ. 01625 539100.

Cherry Valley Chinese Eating House, 33 Handbridge, Chester, CH4 7JF. 01244 678364.

Meal in a minute

Digest this mini-review in 60 secondsLeaf on Bold Street65 - 67 Bold Street, Liverpool, L1 4EZ0151 707

Style of venue A contemporary, relaxed and comfortable tea room and bar in the heart of the city centre. You'll find an overwhelming choice of teas from around the world as well as a menu that changes every day.

On the menu Everything from hearty soups, large doorstop sandwiches and tasty vegetarian dishes. There is a tempting breakfast menu as well as a superb brunch menu at the weekends. I opted for the butternut squash and goat's cheese risotto (�7) and my guest chose the beefburger served with thinly sliced new potatoes fried in garlic (also �7). But the tea - served in a special self brewing mug/teapot - is the star of the show. I chose Lady Grey, a snip at �1.95.

D�cor From the outside it looks like a trendy bar. Inside you will find a combination of New York loft inspired areas to a chintzy corner complete with bright pink wallpaper and a wall decorated with lots of vintage china.  Ambience Laid back, cosy and welcoming - this is not a place where you feel like you have to vacate your table quick sharp.  

Service Friendly, efficient and attentive. Staff are on hand to help you with anything, including advice on the dizzying choice of teas on offer.

Cost Very reasonable. Two main meals and two drinks cost less than �20. Bottles of wine cost from �9.99 to �100 for a bottle of Dom Perignon Brut Vintage.

Suitability for entertainment An ideal place for a long lunch with friends and family or for a more intimate meal.

Emma Mayoh

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