With a focus on Middle Eastern and pan-Asian influenced favours, Evelyn's Cafe Bar Manchester launched its latest small plates menu last week - a selection to rival their extremely popular brunches. From Inka-grilled meat to exceptionally fresh seafood and seasonal veggies accompanying, the dishes promised an array of flavours that were right up my street. So, when the chance to go to a restaurant that's been on my list for a while came up, you can bet I took it.
Trawling plants spreading across exposed brick, alongside industrial touches and an open kitchen, made up the chic look of this stunning spot. As we settled down on our dimly lit table, we noted the bustling atmosphere and fully booked tables - a sign of what was to come, perhaps? To get started, we perused the menu to choose a pre-dinner cocktail, my partner opting for a Peach Enzoni (£9.50), one of the recommended pre-dinner sharpeners, while I nabbed a fig and spiced clementine sour (£10.50). It's fair to say, Evelyn's kicked off our night perfectly. The first was a refreshing muddle of Villa Ascenti peach gin, campari, green grape and lemon, which I appreciated for being slightly less bitter than the usual negroni when I stole a sip. Mine, on the other hand, was the ideal autumnal pick, thanks to Diablesse citrus spiced Caribbean rum, fig, lemon and a good glug of amaretto.
After a longer wait than you'd usually expect from small plates, our first arrived. I'm usually not the biggest fan of this particular fish when raw, so the tuna tartare (£12) was a rogue choice for me. But, it came highly recommended, so I took the plunge regardless. Perhaps I'm getting more refined as I age, or maybe this dish was just a stunner, because I happily gobbled every last morsel. A refreshing ginger dressing covered it, while black rice and a crispy, fried cracker provided the essential variety of texture. Mwah. We were equally enamoured by the lamb skewers (£4.90) from the Inka grill, where the fat had rendered beautifully and the tender meat was flavoured by a cumin-schezwan blend, although I'd say the former was certainly more dominant.
Before our next round of dishes, more drinks were in order, since they had completely hit the spot earlier. For me, a lychee and rose pornstar martini (£10.90) with a shot of cava on the side. Sometimes rose can be overpowering, but this Ketel One vodka, lychee, pineapple and passoa mix more than balanced the floral hints. Bravo to the bartenders. My other half's white peach old fashioned (£10.50) was just as much of a success; a delish fruit bitters and syrup-laced twist on the classic.
Making a fantastic palate cleanser between all our other food, the beautifully fresh Jerusalem artichoke, ricotta, spinach-chive puree and rocket salad (£10.90) was packed with much-welcomed, creamy bites. Continuing the trend of tasty grub, our orange chicken and pearl cous sous (£8) had a full citrusy flavour that impressed more than other times I've had it, but I would've preferred the skin to be crispier. My favourite of the night, though, was the Thai green mussels (£12), alongside some sourdough and whey butter (£4.50) to mop up. These bold lemon grass, lime leaf and coconut flavours made the perfect close to the savoury portion of the evening.
So, onto dessert. I'm pretty certain anyone with working taste buds would love the tangy key lime pie (£6.90) with rye biscuit and meringue or the rich chocolate mousse (£7) here. Better yet, the sweetness of the latter was balanced by a drizzle of olive oil and a crunchy sea salt sprinkling. The ideal ending to our meal? This was it.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Overall, Evelyn's have got something really great going with their latest menu. The small plates' flavours are on-point and largely hit the mark when it comes to texture. If they can get any little niggles ironed out, particularly on timing, then this restaurant has all the ingredients for roaring success. Plus, they've already got the sublime cocktails to match.
💰 The damage: £108 between two, plus service charge.
📍 The location: 44 Tib Street, M4 1LA.
👌 Perfect for: Tasting bits and bobs from all across the world.
⭐ Need to know: Make sure to check out Daisy, the stunning sister bar downstairs.