MOSES in the promised land? Looks like it. With bearded chef Byron of that ilk given free rein to produce perhaps the most interesting all-day menu in the Northern Quarter. What was Superstore is still instantly recognisable (and the leftfield Sunday roasts are not being jettisoned) but Evelyn’s feels a step-up.
It may sound like a soppy little tea room but Evelyn’s is delivering big bold flavours, especially via the searing heat of its Inka charcoal oven. Nothing like Southern Eleven, where Byron Moses once plied his craft. Maybe the openness to global influences is more reminiscent of David Gale, who once recruited him at the Hilton.
Gale was consultant to the previous adventure by Evelyn’s new owners, the Zanna Group. Alderley Edge’s Railway Cafe spliced artisan gin with Gale’s Western take on Mughli’s acclaimed Asian food.
Most of us expected something of the same here. Nothing like. A real go-to neighbourhood restaurant with a dash of slacker chic in the decor (the evening we were there a duo of artists were doodling across the vast plain windows – a work in progress) and engagingly eclectic food. Superstore tweaked with a new refinement.
Successive weeks eating at Cottonopolis and now here have certainly restored my culinary faith in the NQ.
I really ought to have come in for breakfast first (served 9am-12,30pm), which offers introguing sounding dishes such as coconut chia pot with mango and pineapple; or shakshuka and baked eggs with harissa alongside pancakes with blueberries and the like.
Instead, it was evening and we fancied fish (after consuming six teatime tapas of venison, partridge and mallard at Iberica – but that’s another TOM story).
Our piscine priority was governed by the temptation of Sepp Moser’s biodynamic Riesling on the cute wine list at £33.90. I’m a fan of this Austrian producer’s Gruner Veltliners and Zweigelts but had never tasted his take on my favourite white grape. Alas, it was the one slight letdown of an evening, which married some striking food and engaging service.
We ordered it first but left it to over-chill in the bucket while we freshened the palate, as they say, via a terrific Campari-heavy Negroni (£7) and Wild Blossom Martini (£9). It took a while to recover its grapefruity, minerally self but never quite delivered the expected fruit . Still its acidity coped well with those big a la carte flavours I mentioned earlier from three small and two large plates, each of which was generous.
I loved the chilli-fuelled crumble of harissa ricotta accompanying heirloom tomatoes and basil (£6.50) and the tangy pan-Asian cluster of calamari, papaya, lotus root with a sweet/salty/sour nuoc cham dip (£8), but yet more toothsome was the aromatic, citrussy overload of a ceviche of white fish, yuzu, lemongrass, shallots and, surprisingly successful, slices of avocado (£7). We’d twigged by now ‘healthy’ is heavily factored in; and the only burger in sight is with srirachi mayo and kimchi among the sandwiches.
Of our two large plates of well charred fish, I relished the sweet, almost fruity curry heat of the masala sea bream and richly sauced chick peas and apple (£15). More daring was the seared mackerel (£14), cooked in paper in the fiery Inka and, ginger and chilli to the fore, served on a bed of black rice.
To finish, lime, honey and avocado cheesecake (£5.50) was tart and well textured, gluten-free like my yuzu posset with blackberries and chia (£4.50), puddings both that majored on nutrients while tasting well.
We dined under a wall of plant life that out-Allotments Allotment Bar. I wonder if the eponymous Evelyn waters them every morning before attending to the granola? Yes, you’ve guessed it; I never asked who the hell Evelyn is.