Orange Building, MediaCityUK, Salford Quays, M50 2HF
Salford Quays has always been something of a tough crowd. Despite being home to some of the country's leading arts organisations and now the BBC itself, its nightlife offering remains strangely lacklustre. So when we discovered that Heaton Moor's fabulous Damson were opening a new bar and restaurant in the heart of Media City, we were naturally excited. Could this neighbourhood favourite inject some much needed warmth into the Quays? We went along to find out.
Head through the entrance and up a staircase from the Media City piazza next to the BBC, and you'll discover this spacious, modern bar and restaurant; opulently furnished and flooded with light on summer evenings by the floor to ceiling windows that wrap around two sides of the entire room. The decor follows the same rich colour scheme as the original Heaton Moor restaurant, with warm tones of plum and grey adorning plush fabrics, oversized light shades and carpets - lending a welcoming, homely feel to what could easily feel like a stark, cold space. One side of the room is given over to the dining area, with a central bar dividing the restaurant from a large drinking area, where plenty of sofas and booths provide cosy corners in which to enjoy Damson's excellent cocktails and famous wine list. We were shown to a table by the window, from where we could make the most of the panoramic views across Salford Quays' waterways and bold architecture afforded by the restaurant's first floor perch.
Clientele and Atmosphere
We visited Damson MediaCity early on a Wednesday evening to sample their three course pre-theatre menu (£19.95) - and were surprised to find the bar and restaurant fairly quiet. Where was everyone? Where were the BBC workers getting the drinks in after work? Where were the theatre goers enjoying a pre-theatre drink or bite to eat? With such a lack of decent, independent bars and restaurants in MediaCity, Damson - with its far superior offering - should really be bustling every night of the week. Damson Media City has only been open for a few months, and we can only assume that people don't yet realise that the spacious bar area is welcoming to non-diners who just want to enjoy drinks without a meal. They should. With its warm, unpretentious atmosphere, friendly staff and comfortably stylish surroundings - not to mention handy location right next to the tram station - there's no reason why the bar at Damson shouldn't quickly become THE spot for after work drinks in Media City.
Choosing from the pre-theatre menu, I opted for the duck leg rillete with parsnip and vanilla puree and spiced pear and watercress to start; a petite dish with a well balanced mix of textures and flavours that left me yearning for more. My main of grilled rainbow trout fillet with a chunky Bois Bourdain sauce and smooth avocado puree obliged both my appetite and my senses; tasting as colourful as it looked on the plate. My vegetarian companion opted for the only veggie options on the menu; a delicious pea and mint soup followed by a delightfully creamy and ever so purple beetroot and blue cheese risotto, topped with candied walnuts and onion rings, whose sweet crispness offered a welcome compliment to the blue cheese richness of the dish. If you're tempted to skip desserts, don't. We nearly did, yet they proved the highlight of the meal - in particular the dangerously decadent chocolate mousse served with coffee ice cream, amaretto sponge and griottine cherries. Sexy. We'll definitely be returning soon to try out the full a la carte menu.
Enjoy three courses for £19.95 until 6.30pm Monday - Saturday
Damson already has a solid reputation for wine thanks to the wide ranging wine list of their original Heaton Moor venue. They've now transferred this labour of love to Media City, where they offer a carefully curated menu boasting no less than 76 grape varieties, as well as a good choice of Lallier Champagnes, Wiese & Krohn Ports and Fernando de Castilla Sherries. And with a selection of award winning wines available by the glass (such as the Meursault Premier Cru ‘Les Perrières’ – Vallet Frères 2008 and the Rioja Reserva – Valenciso 2006), wine connoisseurs can enjoy a decent tipple without having to splash out on the entire bottle. The cocktail menu is concise, and dominated by Lallier Champagne cocktails. I went for the sublime 'Twinkle', with its delicate blend of Lallier Grande Cru, Elderflower Liqueur and Vodka which made for the ideal summer refreshment.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And with that in mind, Damson have taken their tried and tested Heaton Moor neighbourhood recipe for fine dining and excellent wines in unpretentious surroundings, and applied it to their bold new space at Media City. And with an emerging media and cultural community on its doorstep, there's no reason why Damson Media City shouldn't soon find itself at the heart of an entirely new kind of neighbourhood.
Book your table online now to try Damson out for yourself.
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