ONE of Gordo’s Grandads was a baker; the other a butcher. Gordo wasn't allowed to move into the sixth form at school (might have been tricky with only one O Level anyway), hailing from four generations of butchers, it was thought 'if you can manage a butchers shop son, you can manage your life'.
This is an inclusive place; good value, warm, safe and cosy.
It was pointed out to Gordo one morning in the meat market at 4:40 am, his fingers fast developing frostbite from humping hind quarters of Scottish beef onto the back of a van, that he should 'shut the fuck up and get on with it'.
On the way back from the market that day with his Uncle Tom, the head buyer for the family butchers, Frank Garner and Sons, Gordo got some sage advice:
“Listen fella, remember this: every butcher wants to be a baker, every baker wants to be a greengrocer, every greengrocer wants to be a fishmonger and every bloody fishmonger wants to be butcher.”
Times don’t change much. It seems the modern equivalent is every Indian restaurateur wants to become an Italian.
The boys from Mughli, arguably the best Indian restaurant on the tired Curry Mile, are doing it differently. They've been working with the excellent David Gale, a chef of serious purpose and one of the best at revved-up eclectic cooking with a hipster tilt, at The Railway Cafe pop-up in Alderley Edge. There's plenty of spice knocking about the menu here, very popular it is too. Now the team have taken over the excellent Superstore on Tib Street, Northern Quarter, and renamed it Evelyn’s Cafe and Bar (cute, but you'll soon come to hate the name when you try to find the sucka on social media).
So this time it’s Indian does British Colonial. Hmm. Yes. British Empire! Perhaps that’s the best way to describe it.
Here's a thought, why do the Chinese always do fish and chips, whilst the Indians never do? Gordo can’t think of one. Back to the point…
Walking into the familiar entrance, the restaurant hasn’t changed much. The boys are being clever here, lots of plant pots and a lick of paint, they've opened on a shoe string compared to others but kept the homely local restaurant feel. Service comes from an old friend who is very good at what she does, while the same can be said for the other members of staff feverishly stewarding the room.
It’s a menu that takes a bit of getting used to. Open from 9am to 11pm, they serve a very hipster breakfast selection including: sourdough (oh dear god, pass me the antidepressants), goji berries, and toasted nut and fruit loaf (perks up). No bacon or sausages on show, mind you. The menu opens up at lunch with small plates and pretty yet substantial sounding sandwiches (even chickpea fritter, sesame yoghurt, mango and chips tickled the Fat One's fancy). The mains pique interest, too, along with a small but well-formed pudding section.
The order began with a (slightly watery - too much ice) Bloody Mary (£6) that takes hold of your tongue and swings you round the room with it. A glass of Prosseco, Lunetta Cavit (£6) sold us the idea of getting the bottle (£24).
A sweet corn fritter (£3.50) described as a snack was a cleverly spiced affair that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the veranda of the 6th Bengal Lancer's officers' club in 1834, gracing the plate of a proper nineteenth century hipster who actually killed people for a living, idly sipping gin and tonics in sub-tropical heat wondering who was rogering his wife up in Kashmir.
Korean chicken (£6.00) was, as well as ridiculous value, a worthy opponent to the fritter: sharp, fiery and juicy. This one will wake you up. Not very colonial, mind.
Seared beef (£14.50, main image) as a large course was a slight fail; impeccable ingredients, beautifully constructed, it needed a little more acidity. A squeeze of lime, perhaps. This was too oily.
Gordo chose something he wouldn’t usually during a civilian visit; the vegetarian tagliatelle, hazel nut, basil and tomatoes (£12.00). This turned into the star of the show, probably the week. It was actually a re-worked tagliatelle pesto; thick, nearly crunchy, very cheesy, hugely basiley and nicely tomatoey. Roasted hazelnuts mixed in were sheer genius.
Sides were home fries, chilli and garlic (£4) which needed neither the chilli nor the garlic and were about a quid too expensive. The greens, capers and herbs (£4), however, were superb and far better value.
Apple crumble (£4.00), served ‘family style’ as described by the wonderfully enthusiastic Kate Feld over at Time Out, was completely faithful to Grandma Gordo’s recipe. The custard wasn’t Bird’s, that’s for sure, and the lumps intentional in this rendering. Bloody good this. Sorry Gran.
Two years ago Gordo had a chat with one of the Mughli boys, the charmingly over-educated twitter gossip and blogger lover, Haz. We were discussing his restaurant Mughli and where he should take it menu-wise. Gordo had just completed reading Lawrence James’s (exhausting) history of British India and The Raj and thought a good starting point would be Raj cuisine. A mix of British and Indian dishes.
Evelyn’s isn’t what crossed Gordo’s mind that day, but thinking back to the term Empire, in particular the British, then it becomes easier to explain. Forgetting the menu for a moment, where these guys have really succeeded is in making a truly comfortable local restaurant, as welcoming as Home Sweet Home but a little more honest and less achingly trendy. Somewhat healthier 'n' all. This is an inclusive place; good value, warm, safe and cosy.
They also do a smashing gin and tonic by all accounts, and you don’t have to go out nailing tigers and locals to a tree with your lance to deserve one.
A Gordo go.
Evelyn’s Cafe and Bar, G18 Smithfield Building Tib St, Manchester M4 1NB, 0161 834 3303.
Food: 7/10 (sweet corn fritter 6.5, Korean chicken 7.5, seared beef 5.5, home fries 6, greens 7.5, tagliatelle 9, apple crumble 8)
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