Evuna (May 2004)
This singularly upmarket wine shop/deli and restaurant, is the latest addition to a part of Manchester that's rapidly becoming VERY Spanish in ambience. Opposite its recently opened Deansgate premises is the Instituto Cervantes, where you can imbibe Iberian culture of all kinds from films to art exhibitions, learn Spanish from scratch, and even dance flamenco. Just down the road is the long-established El Rincon, a lively, thriving tapas bar and restaurant which is always good to visit.
This stylish new venue should become just as popular but Evuna is a very different animal. Brains behind the enterprise are Frances Dowler and the eponymous Manuel Evuna and boy do they know their food and drink. A former shop, its exposed brick walls are lined with literally hundreds of Spanish wines -- about 600 in all -- for people to purchase and take home. If you're stopping for a drink or snack, there are wooden tables, lots of glass, and it's a pleasant enough place to relax and people watch. But Evuna's real raison d'Ítre is the authenticity and quality of its food.
Ingredients are everything in Spanish cuisine -- it tends to be simple stuff; there are no elaborate sauces, no fancy cooking of the French haute cuisine style. But if the components of a meal are first-class it can rival fare of a much more elaborate nature. And this is the case at Evuna. It's a small but perfectly formed menu of two halves -- the starters, 'small plates' and side orders range from grilled wild mushrooms to garlic prawns and various tortillas. A platter of tuna, cod and salmon can be yours for £6.50 (small) or £9.55 (large) The famous tortilla de patata (potato omelette) is £3.50 for what's a pretty substantial dish. Another bonus is that you can also order 'off-menu' -- a plate of fine Serrano ham, Manchego cheese drizzled with olive oil, and the aforementioned omelette plus a salad of tomato, onion, and asparagus with bread would be ample for a light supper. While choosing your food, a generous bowl of olives, garlic, and pickled courgettes gets the gastric juices flowing.
There are hot options too -- all from the stable of standard Spanish cuisine. Try Pescados a la sal (seabass baked in rock salt, one which Keith Floyd tried once and very memorably got wrong), Merluza (Hake) comes with a traditional pisto sauce, and carnivores can sample Magret de pato (duck in port sauce), Sirloin of venison, or Beef in red wine sauce. These check in at about £13 to £16 apiece. Vegetarians, aside from the many options in the small plate menu, can also tuck into a vegetable paella (£11.95) or vegetable terrine (£9.95). For £19.95, you can sample a 'taster' menu with little bits of everything. Special deals also abound at lunchtime, when for just over £8 you can enjoy two courses.
Of course the wine choice is unparalleled anywhere else in Manchester, ranging from a house red from La Mancha (£8) to bottles at £1,600. And you can take it home too. There are loads of incredible bin-end bargains -- £20 bottles of Rioja with 50 per cent reductions and some great-value mixed cases. To sum up, there's no surface gloss at Evuna, what you see is very much what you get. But if you want top-quality Spanish food and drink at very reasonable prices, then this is a great place to come. Service is good, too.
Tel: 0161 8192752
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