So, that award that I’ve been begging people to vote for me on. I won it. Officially Best Food Blog in the Midlands for 2017, two years after starting this little old heap of rubbish as a bit of fun. I happen to love writing this blog; it’s a diary of my hobby, a chance to vent and also to give praise to those that deserve it. It’s given me headaches, arguably broken up a long term relationship and definitely given me a new partner who shares the same love that I do for edible bits on a plate. For that alone it is worth it. It’s opened more doors than it’s shut, introduced me to new friends I’d have never met, and given me a few new enemies. I’m chuffed to bits that I won. If you voted for me then I sincerely Thank You. Honestly, the support I received was genuinely overwhelming and far more than I deserved.
Now enough of the humbleness – that shit doesn’t suit me one bit. Let’s get back on to the food. I won this award on Monday night, an evening that cascaded badly into the very early hours of Tuesday with a collection of people that should know better, but rarely do. When we finally awake the girlfriend decides to treat me to a celebratory lunch a very short stroll away at Damascena. She does this for two reasons; 1) It is the closest option and she has tiny little legs, and 2) she has impeccable taste. Of course she does, she’s with me.
Damascena used to be Moseley’s worst kept secret. We’d whisper it’s name and flock there together for mint tea. I once sat in there during the depths of winter and watched a man in shorts tell his first date about his troubled relationship with meat. It’s that kind of place. I love it, but so does everybody else: The place is always full, even when they recently opened a second branch in the city centre. It’s why I used to stick to ordering it on Deliveroo instead of fighting the crowds.
We order way too much food that still fails to hit £25.00 for the two of us. I insist on the M’sakhan because I always do. The long marinated brown bits of chicken thigh have tang and pepperiness from sumac and olive oil which seeps on to the flatbread underneath. Roll it up and chomp away. Another flatbread is smeared with a course mixture of spiced minced lamb. It’s pungent and aggressive and possibly the best £3.15 you will ever spend.
I’ve never had a savoury pastry here before and I know now why. Its a weak link on the strongest of chains, the cheese and dried mint mixture too bland to threaten anything. A comment is passed that it tastes like the cheese stuffed pizza crusts which is too accurate and observant to ever come from my mouth. The proper treatment for bland cheese follows; halloumi marinated and charred, so that the middle only offers relief from flavour. The pops of pomegranate from the sweet and sharp salad it comes with are a lovely contrast.
A mezze defeats us and we ask for it to be packaged to take home. Later on we take the folds of supple flatbread to the best hummus in the city. We fight over roasted potatoes turned amber by hot spices before dredging them through creamy m’tabal. Baba Ghanuuj is another home for the flatbread, the aubergine deftly spiked with garlic and showered with lemon acidity. There are peppers and tomatoes roasted until the texture has merged into one, heavily seasoned and softly spiced. It’s a lot to take in and we almost forget to pick at the lightly dressed olives. £7.95 will buy you all of this.
It’s taken me a long time to properly write about this place, partially down to laziness, though mostly because I shared that same dreadful opinion that us Moseley folk should keep it to ourselves. It’s a frankly ridiculous notion; food this good should be embraced and shared across the city. Damascena get flavour as good as anywhere. Now get in the queue and try it yourself.