It's not much more than a year since Evelyn's Cafe put down roots in the old site of Superstore. A visit belies that lack of heritage, however, as the place already seems to have collected its fair share of regulars. It certainly has that feel anyway, though maybe homely decor is creating that effect - the interior features plenty of wood, both in the furniture and in living plant-form (there's a fig tree in there). Either way I was yet to visit, but had already heard more than enough good recommendations to persuade me to pop by.
The plan with the menu is casual and innovative, words that could quite easily describe the Northern Quarter itself, or indeed the setup at Mughli in Rusholme, which the owners of Evelyn's also run. There is definitely experimentation on show, and our dishes certainly spanned continents too, non more so than my white fish cerviche with yuzu, lemongrass, shallots and avocado. Fusing the Peruvian-style cured fish with more traditionally Asian flavours worked a treat. Up next a marriage of Central America and Japan with wasabi tuna tacos, like Mexican food with sashimi on top, which sounds ideal let's be honest. Both starters were definitely for the sea food connoisseur, and they did not last long on the plate.
Moving in to perhaps more Middle Eastern territory, slow roasted lamb freekeh, tender soft meat stewed with a grain not too dissimilar to pearl barley. Wherever you want to place it on the map it was proper comfort food that you can shovel down with a spoon, the gelatinous chunks of lamb holding everything in place whilst herbs and peas freshened up. In our other dish apple did that job, crisply brightening a tastily charred piece of hake which sat on spicy masala chickpeas.
There's something wonderfully reassuring about being served your dessert with a dollop from a big ol' tray, like your gran dishing out her homemade trifle. I doubt any of my grandparents would've knocked up a chia seed tiramisu like this one back in their day though, and perhaps that bowl of food sums up Evelyn's pretty well, like I said, casual yet innovative. Our other pud was a honey, avocado and lime cheesecake. No cheese here though, that creaminess is provided by avocado, the saviour of vegans everywhere, is there anything those things can't do? Pretend to be cheese is one, still once you get over the brain-tricking flavour it was a nice dish in its own right, but I'll stick with my dairy in future thanks.
My companion for evening the pointed out Evelyn's would be a good place for a date. There's plenty going on with the food and drink with a menu that is anything but boring, but it's also reasonably priced and the staff are genuinely personable and attentive. All in all you can easily see why Evelyn's might already have plenty of frequenters, despite not being open as long as some of the places nearby. As for making a return myself, plenty has already changed on their regularly rotating menu - just in the short time since I visited. Book yourself a visit in January, you'll probably find me at my usual table by then.
G18 - Smithfield Building