Trying the food at one of Suffolk's most-anticipated new restaurants
- Credit: Damson & Wilde
Our food reviewer Mark Heath and his wife Liz visited the newest restaurant in Bury St Edmunds, Damson & Wilde, for a Friday night dinner. Here's what they made of it...
Years ago, when my better half and I really started to enjoy going out for dinner, we'd take ourselves off to Café Rouge in Bury St Edmunds, order up a pair of steak frites and push the boat out on a bottle of Moet.
For us, on our meagre trainee journalist salaries, that was really living - hence we have many happy memories of meals in the iconic Grade II listed building on Bury's Abbeygate Street.
Café Rouge, of course, closed in July 2020, and that building, which dates back to 1891, has stood empty ever since. Until now, and the launch of Damson & Wilde last month.
Thus, we headed along for a Friday night tea with a mixture of hope and trepidation - hope that the town had got a new restaurant worthy of the location, and trepidation, as always with new eateries, that it hadn't.
Ok, let's get the details out of the way before we get to the food. Damson & Wilde is part of the City Pub Group, which boasts 43 independent pubs across the UK.
This restaurant, however, is the first of its kind, with others planned across the country. Bury, then, has been chosen above the likes of London as a prime location, which is very heartening.
- 1 Teenager sexually assaulted and then robbed in Ipswich
- 2 GALLERY: Photos show devastating aftermath of huge fire near Ipswich
- 3 Travellers pitch up in one of Ipswich's busiest parks
- 4 'He'd be dead' - mum's terror after wave drags her and baby down beach
- 5 Teenager’s 10 year sentence is warning over ‘horrendous’ acid attacks
- 6 Open air theatre coming to Ipswich park later this month
- 7 One of the world's largest container ships arrives at Port of Felixstowe
- 8 Smoke seen across Ipswich as crews tackle large fire
- 9 Redundant care home being used as homes applying for planning after 5 years
- 10 Ongoing heathland blaze sees 147 calls made to fire service
We'd booked for 6.30pm thinking we'd miss the crowds - but we were wrong. The place was rammed, which was a good sign.
It also looks great - modern, stylish and luxurious, with verdant greenery all around and a range of seating options, from cool individual booths to plush tables, and a very nice garden courtyard area.
A word of warning though. As nice as it looks, some of the tables are very close together. We were initially seated next to a family of four, and we may as well have been seated with them, enquiring about their days.
Seeking to avoid any awkwardness, I had a quiet word with our server - who just happened to be the restaurant manager, Fabrizio Lippi - to see if we could be re-seated outside, in that lovely Suffolk sun.
He dealt with it superbly, explaining that they don't serve food outside but that he understood our concern. Quickly, we were moved to the much-quieter side room, with a smile and friendly warmth that boded well.
Now then, to the food. Damson & Wilde offers a variety of small plates, big plates and sharing options, and it was very much for the former - which aren't served until 5pm - that we'd booked.
For big plates, you have the classics - burger, fish and chips, steak and fries - while you can order up a spatchcock chicken for two or three to share if you're so moved.
We're a sucker for the small plates though, and there aren't many eateries offering them in Bury, apart from the excellent Casa, and the relatively recently re-opened Linden Tree, another iconic Bury location.
There are 11 diminutive options for you at D&W, and we asked Fabrizio for advice as to how many we'd need. Four was the suggestion, plus perhaps some chips. You can always order more, he reminded us. As I've said many times in these reviews, that's advice to live your life by.
Pint of Estrella in hand, we selected a quartet of dishes which appealed - the crispy tempura squid, selection of cured meats with focaccia, mini chorizos and prawn pil pil.
They duly arrived, with a little pot of chips - nice one, Fabrizio - and we got stuck in.
The beauty of small plate dining is how social it is, both of you trying different things at different times, exclaiming about how good it is, imploring the other to try it, laughing as you see their reactions - and we had all of those vibes here.
A brief review of each. For us, the star was the chorizo, served with aioli. Meaty, richly flavoured with that classic smoky tang and clearly good quality. Absolutely delicious.
For me, the tempura squid was a close second - crunchy, not at all greasy and well cooked. No rubbery bites here, I'm pleased to report.
Liz loved the prawns and argued for them in the runner-up spot. Large, shell-on crustaceans, packing big whacks of garlic and chilli and, again, not overcooked. Removing the shells, squeezing lemon over them and then dipping one's fingers in the water bath added to the fun.
Finally, the focaccia with cured meats - a staple of any small plate offering - was good too. Lovely, fresh, onion-flavoured bread, with a good range of quality cuts.
A word, too, for those chips. They were superb - neither too thin or too thick, salted to perfection and with just the right amount of crunch. Whatever you're having, get the chips - another rule for life.
We were reasonably replete after our small plate smorgasbord, but had more than enough space for dessert.
I went for the chocolate brownie, served with vanilla ice-cream, while Liz opted for the baked New York cheesecake.
Both were good. My brownie was rich and indulgent, served nicely on the line between solid and melted, and teamed well with a very pleasant espresso which I always tend to order with dessert.
The cheesecake was probably the stronger of the two dishes though. We've been lucky enough to eat New York cheesecake at the place which made it famous, Junior's in the Big Apple itself, and this was a pretty impressive version - if about a quarter of the size of the portion you get at Junior's. That's no bad thing, by the way!
Creamy, sweet, and with tang from a raspberry coulis, very pleasant.
Right, final thoughts. Our meal came to just under £75, which probably qualifies it more towards the top end of things, expense-wise, but we didn't feel cheated in that respect.
The other thing I must address is service. I've seen a few gripes about speed of service at D&W online and, while we did have a wait for our food, I'd describe service more as relaxed than slow, given how busy the place was.
This is a new restaurant, and a new team, remember. We always felt looked after, and our interactions with every member of staff - from the excellent Fabrizio to the friendly waitress who took our payment - were warm and genuine.
Most importantly, the food was good. It's still early days, of course, and there are a few wrinkles to be ironed out - but it feels like Bury may at last have a restaurant worthy of filling that iconic building and location.