Damson & Co Soho
21 Brewer Street, Soho, London, W1F 0R
damsonandco.co.uk/020 3697 2499
London’s trendier areas are now so overrun with tapas bars that if you were a kid growing up in one of those boho barrios you might be forgiven for thinking that London was a gastronomic outpost of the Spanish Imperial Empire rather than the home of eel pie and mash. So to me the idea of a British Deli Bar is an exciting new concept. If we are going to reclaim our culinary heritage it’s going to be places such as Damson & Co that will play an important part in that process, reaching out to the kind of people who can’t afford or are intimidated by Heston’s hi-tech historicism or for whom the St John ethic that permeates through some of the gastropub scene is too purist.
Sitting amid the bustle of Brewer St, Damson had been open for 6 weeks when we were invited in to sample the menu. The interior mixes post-industrial ducting with filament bulbs, a wooden bar and leather bar stools. It’s as if your favourite pub has gone all Soho on you -but that’s probably the idea.
We started with a glass of Gusbourne 2008 Brut Reserve English Sparkling wine. The English sparkling wine scene is in rude health at the moment and the Gusbourne is a fine example; elegant with a toasted brioche nose and a stone fruit taste. It matched our seafood platter perfectly.
Maldon Rock oysters were creamy and clean tasting, our whelks were meaty and tender (probably the best I have had) and Devon crab was freshly dressed and full of flavour. Seafood is brought in every day direct from Billingsgate Market ensuring freshness. It came with a deliciously herby aioli.
At this point we tried a couple of Damson’s English White wines.Danebury Reserve 2012 from Stockbridge in Hampshire had a floral Germanic style and is a blend of Auxerrois Blanc, Ruländer, Madeleine Angevine and Schönburger grapes. It is the sort of wine that we are starting to get very good at getting right in this country.Chapel Down Flint Dry 2012 comes out of Tenterden in Kent and has a more mineral quality on the palate alongside fruit aromas on the nose.
Soused Sea bass came ‘cooked’ in lemon with turmeric, onions, chilli and curry and was suitably zingy and spicy without the flavour of the fish being overpowered. Ceviche is so fashionable at the moment and this Anglo-Indian take on it is a clever nod to that trend. At Damson it comes in a variety of flavour combinations.
I’m not sure how British the salad of Broccoli, green beans, cashew nuts, mixed shoots with the house dressing was (£4.50), but it was high on crunch and flavour.
Our next platter was a meat and cheese combo. Alex James’s (from Blur) Little Wallop Somerset goat cheese (£5.50) was subtle and even a little under-flavoured for me. It was however a great vehicle for homemade tangy piccalilli and delicious plum and damson chutney.Our other cheese was a Lancashire Shorrock Bomb. Long a northern favourite it was creamy and full flavoured. Air dried beef Bresaola (£5) from Wiltshire was smoky and Shropshire ham lomo (£4.50) tasted home-cooked.
At this point the charming manager emerged bearing G&Ts made from Notting Hill’s own Portobello Rd Gin, garnished with lemon and cucumber, mixed with Fentiman’s tonic and a ‘secret ingredient’ that the Hedonist annoyingly recognised as grapefruit bitters.
To finish we had a Lemon drizzle cake. It had an unexpectedly crunchy top and was deliciously lemony and moist.
Damson & Co is a smartly put together operation that should thrive in the exciting Soho scene of today. The emphasis is not on cooking but the sourcing of prime ingredients from independent artisanal producers and as such it really delivers as a showcase for the best of British. But I think we need to find a new language to describe our domestic produce-having lomo, bresaola, chorizo and saucisson on a British menu isn’t really appropriate. However this minor cavil aside Damson & Co delivers more than a little wallop for your dining pound.
Fiona Daly says
We are a property company situated in the West End that produce an annual restaurant guide containing restaurants that are situated in our properties.
This year, we are using bloggers reviews as opposed to critics reviews and if possible, would like to use a review that you have written for Damson & Co.
Would you be kind enough to let me know if it is possible to use the review? Obviously we would credit you and send you a copy once printed.
Look forward to hearing from you.
22 Ganton Street Carnaby London W1F 7FD
Tel: 020 7333 8118 DD: 020 3667 8068 Mob: 07500 012 643 Fax: 020 3667 8051
Best to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org