You may not think it but there is a real art to Sunday lunch.
Having (almost) mastered it over the last couple of years – with a couple of Yorkshire pudding disasters along the way, naturally – I can tell you it is not as easy as our parents and grandparents made it look.
Both my grandmothers always made superb roast dinners so every time I head out for Sunday lunch, I always find myself comparing a restaurant or pub dinner to those I enjoyed at home as a child or teenager.
Thankfully my dear old gran is not (yet) connected to the internet so I feel able to say this without causing her any offence: the Sunday lunch at Damson easily tops the many I have had down the years.
Before I get one subjecting you all to the food review version of Fifty Shades of Grey (albeit with a distinct Northern accent), a bit of background.
Damson, which sits on the main road through the delightfully quaint suburb of Heaton Moor, is owned by Steve Pilling and chef-partner Simon Stanley – the guys behind the highly successful, and equally delicious, Chop Houses in Manchester city centre.
Moving out of the city centre to Heaton Moor – around five miles and pleasant drive away – has clear done them no harm.
Since opening Damson a couple of years ago, the good reviews have flowed. And deservedly so.
Me and my partner – self-proclaimed food snob like myself – visited a couple of Sundays ago and it was truly love at first sight.
The ‘burbs of London are well known for their “neighbourhood” restaurants and one of my big bugbears is that us up North just don’t do that kind of dining, a couple of notable exceptions aside.
Damson, however, should be used as the blueprint for food entrepreneurs wanting to find the next gap in a market saturated with cheap eateries and bland dishes.
Neither too big, nor too small Damson felt intimate without being cramped and is impeccably furnished.
The service is excellent with the attentive staff always on hand to ensure you are having nothing to worry about apart from choosing something to eat.
Both I and my partner opted for the Sunday set menu, two courses for £14.95, and three for £17.95.
To start, Kim stole an early march and plumped for the smoked salmon and potato salad while I decided to pick something with white beans without actually knowing what it was.
The smoked salmon salad was delicious and the fact that I was only offered the smallest sliver as a taster tells you everything you need to know.
The ‘thing with white beans’ was in fact a veloute, and despite my initial misgivings, I was pleasantly surprised, nay delighted, with what arrived.
For the uninitiated, a veloute is somewhere between a thick sauce and a soup and while I have nothing to compare it to – none of the greasy spoons in my hometown of Burnley are renowned for their veloute – it was superb.
There were plenty of white beans and the crisp mushrooms on top gave it even more added texture. A true triumph and a real eye-opener for this boy from the small town.
Starters quickly dispatched and we were wondering if the mains would be able to live up to such a wonderful start.
We needn’t have worried.
My roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings was to die for. Literally, you could have struck me down just after my final mouthful and I’d have happily met my maker with a big idiotic smile on my face.
The lamb was still pink (the only way to eat lamb in my view), the potatoes were everything you want in a roastie and the Yorkshire pudding was, well, the pièce de résistance. It was huge. And fluffy. And all wonderfully Yorkshire pudding-y.
The missus, more sophisticated and less manly (thankfully) than I, went for the rainbow trout with seasonal greens and was equally pleased with her choice.
The fish was cooked perfectly with a crisp skin and flaky flesh while the season greens were plentiful and a great accompaniment.
After the usual ‘we’ll look at the dessert menu but probably won’t have anything’ charade – who are we trying to kind? – we duly ordered a pudding.
I wanted something light while my partner wanted something with a bit more substance.
The choices of a chocolate and raspberry delice (for her) and a lemon dish with cherries and the most wonderful homemade cinder toffee were the perfect end to a pretty perfect meal.
It might not be in the hustle and bustle of a city centre but for me, Damson is better off for that.
Heaton Moor is a lovely suburb but if there is one reason to jump in the car or on the train from central Manchester than this superb neighbourhood is just perfect.