Restaurateur Steve Pilling and chef Simon Stanley have put Heaton Moor on the food map with their restaurant Damson. Sophie Morris reports
After making a success of Manchester's Sam's and Thomas's Chop Houses, restaurateur Steve Pilling decided to move his talents out of town, taking head chef Simon Stanley with him.
The pair now own Damson in Heaton Moor, five miles from the city, and the thriving gastropub the Red Lion, down the road in High Lane, with Stanley executive head chef of both.
Stanley previously worked in London with Marco Pierre White at the Criterion and the Belvedere as well as Richard Neat at the Oxo Tower before returning to his native North-west to work at Raymond Blanc's Le Petit Blanc and then joining Pilling at Sam's Chop House.
Earlier this year, Damson expanded to add a bar area and more seating and the restaurant can now accommodate about 80 diners. The décor lives up to its name: from the bar through to the dining room, where the tables are simply laid and well spaced, there's a riot of wine-coloured soft furnishings.
The menu, which Stanley is not keen to pigeonhole, is more softly spoken. "It is modern European," he says. Indeed, dishes are familiar contemporary offerings combining comfort food with some innovative touches. There's rabbit rillettes, granny smith apple and prune purée, lime jelly and macerated prunes (£6.95) and slow-cooked belly of middle white pork, Savoy cabbage, carrot purée and gratin of truffled macaroni and cheese (£16.95).
Heaton Moor is a popular residential location but its high street is unremarkable. However, since opening in April 2009, Damson has put it on the food map.
While you can easily spend £30 to £40 a head on the à la carte menu, without wine, there is a set menu at £14.95 for two courses and £17.95 for three plus an extraordinarily well priced Express Menu with mains from £5.
Stanley has up to eight chefs in his brigade and his love of concentrating flavours in gels and foams is present in many dishes. He uses gellan to create liquid gels and lecithin for his foams.
One of the most popular starters is roasted scallops, pea purée, chorizo, roasted red pepper, tomato and preserved lemon (£9.95), while another signature dish, crab and parsley risotto with salt and vinegar cockles, will return to the menu before Christmas.
The many components of a grilled fillet of plaice, fricassée of squid, artichokes, tomato and Parmesan, mousseline potato and bouillabaisse sauce (£16.95) sit admirably well together.
A dessert of chocolate and peanut butter delice, caramel sorbet, drinking chocolate and churros for dipping (£6.95) includes a shot of light, milky fluid rather than the thick, sticky dipping chocolate you might find in Spain.
Stanley uses local suppliers as far as possible. His Goosnargh ducks are from Reg Johnson in Preston and he goes to WH Frost butchers in Chorlton. The wine supplier is Boutinot in Stockport, and the wine list, Pilling's baby, is arranged by grape variety with many wines available by the glass.
No one will be surprised to hear that the pair has another project on the go. The 450-capacity Mr Pilling's Roast restaurant and oyster bar is under construction on Manchester's Deansgate. But you'll have to wait until 2013.
Sample dishes from the menu
Chicken liver and foie gras parfait, red onion marmalade and toasted ginger brioche £7.95 Spring green vegetable and herb risotto, chervil cream £6.95 Salad of Mr Ashcroft's red and golden beetroots with pickled Thai shallots, goats' cheese curd and herbs, candied walnuts and watercress £6.95
Breast of Goosnargh corn-fed chicken, mousseline potato, peas, broad beans, Scottish girolles with parsley and garlic, smoked bacon powder, truffle chicken velouté £18.95 Roasted rump of lamb, minted crushed peas, fondant potato, confit garlic £19.85 Potato and Parmesan gnocchi, asparagus, Scottish girolles with parsley and garlic, roasted artichokes and salsify, slow-cooked egg, potato and truffle foam £14.95
Vanilla and apricot cheesecake, honey-roasted apricot with frangipane, almond tuille £6.95 Clotted cream panna cotta, strawberry jelly, raspberry and strawberry shortbread and marshmallow £6.95 Caramelised pain perdu, roasted pear, honeycomb, Earl Grey jelly, honey and yogurt ice-cream £6.95
Damson 113 Heaton Moor Road, Heaton Moor, Stockport, Cheshire SK4 4HY
Tel: 0161-432 4666