Damson & Co Review – Best of British in Soho, London:
Isn’t is strange how associations form. As a child, my favourite jam was my Grandmother’s damson. During the war, their garden was home to an Andersen shelter and a fruit and vegetable garden which replaced the lawn. And, I suspect because rationing went on for such a long time in the UK (until 1954), it was never put back. So, in a humble semi in Taunton, they could grow most of the vegetables and fruit for their family (four children). Damsons fascinated me – mini plums that you really wouldn’t want to eat raw (they are quite sharp). My Grandma made then into wonderful jam, complete with stones left in (which I thought were lucky). I used to beg for a jar to take home when I visited.
So, an invitation to review a new British Deli bar, Damson & Co, ticked all the right mental boxes in my head. And, the concept sounded good. After all, we can have Indian, Italian, Spanish and even French small plates in London – but who does a British version? In Brewer Street, right in the heart of Soho, Damson & Co promises to showcase ‘a wide ranging and unique variety of locally sourced ingredients in a relaxed and casual, eco-friendly environment with a distinct British-influenced style.’
We walked into a comfortable muted bar, already reasonably busy at around 6.30pm on a midweek evening. And decided that the best way to sample the food would be to leave it up to the manager to pick for us. Although I seem to remember being particularly keen on sampling the seafood platter (which turned out to be an excellent idea). The seafood comes from Channel Fisheries and we had a beautifully plump Maldon oyster each as well as the meatier whelks. Dressed Crab is ‘made in house’, with fresh Dorset crabs, and tasted every bit as good at the crab I’ve eaten on trips to Boscastle.
A very healthy plate of green stuff with nuts and sprouting beans appeared next. There’s something very refreshing about eating food you know instinctively is good for you and still really enjoying it!
Next came what is described on the menu as ‘soused fish (ceviche).’ which comes with a whole variety of marinade options. I would say it’s closer to a ceviche than a soused fish dish, but that’s because my mother’s own soused herrings involved ‘cooking’ the fish in hot vinegar, rather than a cold acid marinade. But who cares. What arrived was delicious – sea bass in an indian spice and lemon marinade.
Our mixed meat and cheese platter had air dried beef bresaola, Wiltshire air dried ham and a selection of cheeses including a shorrock bomb from Lancashire and Little Wallop goats cheese from Somerset.
Nicely presented with chutney piccalilli, toast and crackers, I could happily see myself regularly snacking on this sort of food all evening perhaps with some of the excellent English and Welsh wines by the glass they serve. Most of the drinks list (wines, beers, ciders and gin) is English – with the exception of the red wines, where there’s a small section called ‘Brits Abroad’ . to supplement the two English reds. It’s all quite decently priced too, with G&T at £4.50-£6.00 and wines from £6.00 a glass up to to £9.50 a glass (for a sparkling rose). We happily enjoyed a glass of Gusbourne Estate Brut Reserve fizz (£9.00 a glass) before my companion went on to try the Portobello Road Gin, with grapefruit peel (£5.00).
I rather fancied a coffee though (their coffee arrives daily from Ozone), and we indulged in a piece of lemon drizzle cake - very delicious and obviously healthy!
All in, a welcome find and one where I’m sure I’ll return. Apparently they do great poached eggs in the morning too.
Damson & Co
21 Brewer Street, Soho,
London, W1F 0RL