Damson & Co
There has been a refreshing renaissance brewing in London’s gastronomic scene for a good while now: the popularity of epicurean experiences that contain just as many awkward thank-yous as good dishes, seems to be dwindling in favour of informality. This nascent breed of hospitality is evidenced particularly well in the heart of Soho, at bastion of British food Damson & Co, where the staff knows enough about the menu to sell it to you, but let you get on and eat it.
Inside, small and compact tables accommodate a range of comestibles, from teas and coffees, cakes and poached eggs to glorious ice-cold glasses of British wines and ciders. The latter, incidentally, are the perfect way to kick off Damson & Co’s tour through the British larder. Perhaps strangely, then, the meal started with a nod to South Asia – Soused Gurnard was flavoured with Indian spices. The pickling liquor that the fish bathed in was as piquant as you like and succeeded in giving the palate an early jolt. Next, a sea bass version outdid its companion: visually stunning firm fleshed strips of supremely flavoured fish were accompanied by chives and thinly sliced radishes. This was the sort of dish that, albeit briefly, makes you wonder whether you’ll ever eat anything unhealthy again.
Palates cleansed by this early bluster of all things sharp, a wooden board of Sliders (a very generous etymological manipulation of the term) arrived. Here, the typical burgers had been substituted by two pizzas, the better of which was Asparagus and Spinach. At its core, this dish found its success through two essentials: a crisp base and understated flavours. Slivers of asparagus and bundles of iron-rich spinach were an exercise in subtlety. They needn’t be paired with anything else when they’re that good.
A Charcuterie Board (the restaurant also serves fresh seafood platters – think whelks and oysters) arrived, blushing with the familiar, deep crimson hue of cured meats. The sight of substantial slices of mutton was majestic, offering a salacious injection of umami, its gamey complexities shining through. A porcine dose of salami was also superb, a fact augmented by the generous serving. An unspectacular sweetcorn relish was an anomaly yet thankfully, where it failed, a pot of apple chutney excelled. The trio of cheeses was led by the Cornish Yarg, an enjoyable cow’s milk cheese wrapped in nettle leaves. Elsewhere, a raspberry liquor was recommended by our waiter and rounded off a good evening on the drinks front.
For a restaurant, a location like Soho can be a difficult one in which to survive, let alone thrive. However, Damson & Co benefits from its evident awareness of what it wants to be. Its interior is very smart and induces a desire to stay inside for a little while longer (look out for the quaint toilet), and the food and drink do their job very well. A packed-out restaurant on a wet Wednesday night suggests it may be here to stay.
Photos: Sam Russell
Damson & Co: 49/60
To book a table at Damson & Co, 21 Brewer Street, Soho, London W1F 0RL, call 020 3697 2499.