By Jo Cooksey
Spain is my spiritual home and Spanish food is at the top of my favourite cuisines list. So, the choice we now have, in and around Manchester for great tapas and the like, is manna from heaven for me.
Evuna, who already have restaurants in the Northern Quarter, on Deansgate and in Knutsford, recently opened their fourth branch in Altrincham. The group was started by Mother and daughter team, Frances and Jane Dowler, 15 years ago when they opened the site on Deansgate. Evuna branches aren’t just Spanish restaurants and tapas bars, they are also wine importers, with a focus on the highest quality, hand harvested vinos and often have wine tasting events. They invited us along to try the new menu in Altrincham.
We are already Evuna fans, having eaten at the Northern Quarter and Deansgate sites long before Spanish tapas influx began in the city centre. So, we were looking forward to having a little nose around this new ‘baby’. I arranged to meet my bestie there and we both arrived in a terrible rainstorm. There were a few occupied tables, but I suspect the rain was keeping people at bay. However, there was a sunny welcome waiting for us. The fit out is very Spanish, not in a caricature way but by way of the essence of modern-day Madrid and Barcelona. There are tables and high seating at the bar and along the windows and an open kitchen.
A Little of What You Fancy
As part of the visit we were offered a wine flight to try alongside various new dishes. Sadly, both my pal and I were driving so we asked for a glass of a good all-round red to sip. We were brought a really nice Sommos Reserva 2014. Rather than choose from the menu I asked the waiter to recommend some of the chef’s favourite dishes. He didn’t disappoint.
First up was a Plato Español, a sharing board of meltingly delicious Ibérico and Serrano hams, Chorizo Ibérico, and piquant Spanish cheeses, including my favourite from the island of Menorca. There were also Gordal olives, toasted almonds, a variety of breads including Picos, the mini Spanish breadsticks. The cheeses were sprinkled with little nuggets of sweet, sticky Membrillo, a paste made of quince and traditionally served with Manchego cheese. I could quite happily have sat there all afternoon picking at this mini feast and quaffing wine.
Whist working our way through the board, another was delivered that contained lightly toasted slices of Pan Catalan, drizzled with olive oil and a small bowl of delicious tomato and garlic dip. It was similar to Gazpacho soup and full of the freshness of Spring.
Two delightful dishes down and next off the pass was a steaming dish of fat, juicy Gambas, pan fried in olive oil with garlic and chilli. A simple dish but far too often they are frankly a lacklustre offering. Not here. These were epic prawns. They were quickly joined by a plate of slow cooked pig’s cheeks served on a bed of garlicy potato mash. I absolutely loved these luscious, rich, soft rosettes of pork. Proper comfort food.
The rain had eased a bit by now and the place was starting to fill up.
Just when we thought we couldn’t fit anything else in our last dish was delivered. Looking like a rather spectacular Jackson Pollack painting, it was a slate platter adorned with freshly griddled asparagus spears, strewn with small cubes of toasted goat’s cheese and strewn with a savoury crumb and micro herbs. This was a top end seasonal, vegetable dish.
Dessert You Say
After all those wonderful, savoury delights even I was wondering whether or not I was going to be able to manage pud. But as we had had quite a leisurely lunch, whilst doing a lot of catching up, we decided a coffee and pudding would be just the thing to round off the meal. Well, it would be rude not too.
Having spent many a Summer on the Balearic island of Menorca and eaten bucket loads of this, one of my favourite desserts is Crema Catalana and Evuna have it on the menu. Excited squeals all round. Think Crème Brulee but the custard is infused with orange and lemon zest and sometimes cinnamon, rather than vanilla. It still has the crunchy, melted sugar top though. This is Crème Brulee and then some.
Now this is my only slight disappointment in the whole experience. As a Crème Brulee, what we were served was banging, spot on. But as a Crema Catalana I wasn’t getting any citrus at all. Never mind.
By the time we headed back out into the rain, Evuna was virtually full and the atmosphere was bright and busy with chatter. Already a favourite among the locals and with just the sort of vibe you get in the bars and restaurants of Spain itself.
Will We Return
Absolutely. We have eaten at other branches before we reviewed Altrincham and we will continue to dine there. We love Evuna and the love and hard work the Dowler ladies have put into their brand is obvious for all to see. The staff are always lovely, professional and courteous, no matter the reason for our visit.
We were guests of Evuna but as always, the review and opinions are our own and unbiased.