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Evuna review

Jonathan Schofield has flashbacks of string vests and lamb but finds restaurants have to be more than a very good winelist

Written by . Published on January 6th 2011.


Evuna review

I lived in Madrid in the late eighties.

My street was Calle Fuencarral in an area that is now gentrified and well-to-do. In 1987 it was dubbed in the upmarket El Pais newspaper as ‘El Triangulo de la Muerte’. Or rather ‘the Triangle of Death’. This described the street pattern in the area and referred to three murders which had happened in the last year.

The triangle was made up of a seedy gay area, a seedier red light zone, and a couple of streets where poor north Africans arrived in the city to receive endless abuse.

Despite the horrors, the place could be absolutely fascinating in a run-down real experience way: especially the bars and restaurants and the people who populated them.

One favourite restaurant (Las Sierras) was where the girls used to strut and call and beckon like sirens. These were poor prostitutes who were old before their years.

One of their number was just plain old, at least sixty. She used to stand on a particular street corner, fighting off any other woman who tried to take her spec. She'd stand there every afternoon and evening - unless away on 'business' - in a leatherette mini-skirt and fishnets. Her main claims to fame though were a pair of huge pendulous breasts which she fetchingly showed off in a string vest which struggled to contain them and did less to conceal them.

Not that the view of all that flesh took away the appetite for flesh of a different kind. Inside the restaurant, there were heavy wooden fixtures and fittings and sweet lamb meat. It cost next to nothing either.

The legs of lamb were beautiful. The flesh was cooked so tender it rolled off the bone in thick fibrous lumps, in a sauce heavy with red wine which was perfect for the freezing Madrileño winters. If there hadn’t been chorizo before hand, artichokes during and manchego cheese afterwards it could have been my mum’s Lancashire grub. It was so direct that it came as a pure delight: I’d never known that a country with so much Mediterranean coastline could be so hearty in its cooking. Remember I was 22 at the time.

It seemed to me that there was no ambition in Las Sierras to be anything other than a food provider. There was no chef here, just a cook preparing simple, rustic food from the mountains north of the city. That was its charm.

I wish Evuna was more like that long lost, perhaps long gone, Madrid restaurant in the Triangle of Death. Or maybe the problem lies with our expectations but more of that later.

Certainly there's some similarity in Evuna's two-room Deansgate drinking and dining area. This is a comfortable space to sit in with wooden fittings and wine bottle crammed shelves. The owner and the Polish manageress always provide a warm welcome too. The basement with the toilets looks like an after thought, but then that’s often the case in the 'aseos' area of Iberian places.

I just wish the food wasn’t so clumsy at Evuna. Or maybe I wish it flagged up its food as just simple honest peasant fare with a top winelist alongside.

We ordered from the tapas list to start. Garlic prawns with chilli (£6.95), paprika chicken (£4.25) and albonigas de verduras (vegetables with rice balls, £4.95). The prawns were nice enough but oddly presented, wih a full fleshed bite to the seafood. The paprika chicken was pointless, a sloppy undefined dish, with drowned fowl in goo. The albonigas de verduras (vegetables with rice balls, £4.95) confused me with its name but turned out to be a decent veggie dish. The veg weren’t compacted and cooked like classic albondigas – the meatballs we are all familiar with – but seemed to have turned into an asparagus salad next to a couple of upturned rice mounds. This big pair were still far more attractive than the contents of that lady’s string vest in Madrid. The olives in their little ramekin were bloody good, very juicy those black ones.

My main was a hake (£14.95) with salad and a pisto salad. The batter on the hake was limp and seemed to have sucked the moisture from the fish which as a consequence lay as dry and beached as a dead dolphin stranded up a Galician estuary. The pisto is a trad Spanish dish made, a bit ratatouille-like, from tomatoes, peppers, garlic, courgettes, onions and so on. This formed a base to the fish and helped with the moisture levels but not much.

The lady with me wanted meat so went for the fillet special (£19.95), a steak, medium rare, with a red wine sauce (you can choose from blue cheese or pepper and brandy too) and chips, tomatoes, courgettes, peppers. The steak was appreciated, the sauce was a rich star and the chips were decent. This was easily the best dish of the meal. I liked the attendant veg but my dining partner thought it superfluous.

A Spanish cheesecake (£4.50) was shared and was good, much sturdier than the Anglo-Saxon version, and appealing. It was during this that I started pondering the nature of Evuna.

I know people who criticise the food here: sometimes this is fair, sometimes they seem to go too far in that criticism. Its tapas aren’t as good as those at El Rincon round the corner, and seem contrived and awkward. Its meals lack any notion of cleverness but they can be wholesome.

Maybe the problem with Evuna lies with us. In Madrid in the eccentric inner district where I wound up, eating out in neighbourhood restaurants was as normal as stepping out of your door to go to work. I didn’t for one moment think I’d be amazed by the quality at Las Sierras or be blown away by the combinations or the presentation. I wanted what it delivered simple, straightforward food.

Despite a flatness in the cooking at Evuna, this is exactly what it offers as well. But by being on Deansgate in Manchester city centre it feels like its food should be more 'special-occasion' than that on offer in a Spanish taberna in a working class barrio. This is down to the pricing as well, almost £20 for a steak demands real quality, £15 for the hake pushes the expectation levels up as well. Yet the rates and rents in this area must be sky high so maybe the pricing structure is necessary in which case the discrepancy between image and content will remain.

Of course if you look round the winelist in Evuna then there’s nothing to disappoint. We had a Trascampanas (£19), which was aromatic, balanced and very good. Yet the quality of the wines makes the food very much the poor relation.

Evuna will continue to confuse. I like the atmosphere and I love dropping in for a glass of wine but the food quality doesn't reach the level suggested by the prices. Either the food needs to be better or the price reduced and that rustic appeal emphasised. Given the prime position maybe the former would be the better option, and then maybe there'd be less criticism.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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45 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

SuspiciousNovember 16th 2009.

Mmmmm, so we have two posts that are made literally just after eachother, both slating the competition in an extreme way. I'm sure ManCon can check who it was and if it was Evuna related then let us know as it certainly looks like that it.

JonNovember 16th 2009.

I agree that the food here often doesn't live up to expectations, but the wine is lovely, as is the atmosphere. Go there, and have a nice glass of red with some authentic wafer thin chorizo (which I have had several times in Madrid...) I would also like to question to the reviewer - why go to a Spanish restaurant and order steak? In fact, why go to any restaurant apart from a Steak House and order steak. As Giles Coren says, ordering steak in a restaurant is for people who are afraid to eat different foods...

The Lampshade with AttitudeNovember 16th 2009.

The food here is absolutely shocking, there is no excuse for it even though the reviewer is trying to be nice. It is embarrassing. The wine, as Cas says, is outstanding. The owner wants to decide what she is doing here. Grado can knock it into a cked hat and El Rincon is the place here.

Still suspiciousNovember 16th 2009.

MR J, are you drunk? There is nothing positive about those posts at all, they are a blatant attack on the competition.

SteveNovember 16th 2009.

Having not been I can't offer a comment but ftfer reading the majority of reviews on here, it seems like it's a kitchen issue as there doesn't seem to be too many problems front of house. I can only assume that the chef may well be a partner in the business.

Mr JNovember 16th 2009.

The wife made her first foray to Evuna last night with a bunch of work colleagues from the Town Hall. On her arrival back at ours she declared that the place was brilliant, good food, really good service (that'd be Eva then by the description given), value for money, and can she go again with me and the husband. Fair praise indeed for a first timer.

Lancaster BomberNovember 16th 2009.

Is that you, Polish Manageress?

AnonymousNovember 16th 2009.

Might I suggest that anyone who likes the food at Evuna may have taken a little too much of their (excellent) wine? Sauces made from tinned tomato soup and stale calamari. A meal that bad lives long in the memory...

RobNovember 16th 2009.

Living locally I've been to Evuna half a dozen times or so. I'd agree with the more restrained comments here - the atmosphere, wine and food are great, the food is ok quality-wise but expensive. I think the prices are ok for the location (Dimitris is also way overpriced if you're talking purely about food quality) but it's a shame the food quality doesn't match.I've normally gone to Dimitris when we've had mates round with kids, El Rincon for decent food and a relaxed feel, Evuna for a more upmarket atmosphere and good wine. They'd all have their own niche if Evuna upp'd the food a little.

Tracy HNovember 16th 2009.

Thought i was the only person who had a horrendous evening once at el Rinco - albeit a couple of years back - i have not been back since. The food and wine and atmospher were spot on; however, the rude behaviour of a waitresscompletely detsroyed the evening. I wasdining with my husband and two friends and we decided to have Tapas. Half way through dining the waitress removed our plates and gave us the bill. When we said we had not finished - she kicked off like the one of the tea ladies in Miller & Armstrong (didn't come to physical blows I hasten to add) When I went to complain to the manager , she stood along side me screaming like some deranged woman in a Victorian asylum. The manager just stood there with a 'does not compute' look on his face. I endured all this, simply because my guests and I wanted desired more Tapas! We've never been back since - too many great places to go.

peteoNovember 16th 2009.

I don't think it's got anything to do with our expectations - the food at Evuna is just awfull. I think you are being unduly generous in your review. Quite simply the worst take on Spanish food (anywehre in the world) I have ever experienced.

grogNovember 16th 2009.

i have been to evuna many times over the past 4 years and i have never found anything other than great food excellent service and top class wine. you only have to talk to anyone working there from the owner to the manager and staff to see that they are passionate about what they do. you be hard pressed to find anywhere else that provides this standard of service without the pretentious attitude that usually goes hand in hand with a place like evuna. it's refreshing. and after reading these rants i do have to say that if your going to critique, then constuct, otherwise it just malice, no matter how well rounded your vocabulary is

CasNovember 16th 2009.

Great wine. God awful food on the three occasions I've been. Before some smart arse asks why I went three times if it was awful, well it's because I wanted it to be good and tried again, twice.

DutchyNovember 16th 2009.

Overrated. Had to try it seeing as some of my friends were raving about it. Nice winelist, but Im afraid I have to share the general opinion. Food tasted like it was yesterdays leftovers from Iceland. Neither waiter nor restaurant manager commented on near enough full dishes being sent back to the kitchen. Never again.

Pedro1874November 16th 2009.

Have not been to Evuna for a couple of years for all the reasons detailed above. I also went to a wine tasting there once and the bottles of red had not had time to breathe which seemed strange. My favourite local Spanish tapas restaurants are La Casona in Heaton Moor and El Gato Negro in Ripponden. They are both very authentic imho. We have been to Grado once and had some quality food there too.

Est LancésNovember 16th 2009.

Wtf? El Rincon es los cajones del perro!

Jane co-owner of EvunaNovember 16th 2009.

mmm as co-owner of Evuna I felt the need to add our view finally, after such a mixed bag of comments. Firstly, thankyou to the reviewer for all his positive comments about the wine and ambience. We are truly sorry if anyone has had a bad meal(s) at Evuna. Myself, mum (frances) and the infamous Ewa work full time in the restaurant and I can honestly say that the feedback we get is extremely positive about the food. Of course the chefs make mistakes and if you tell us we would always put it right. Evuna is a mother and daughter family run business that is 6 years old on Saturday and to celebrate we have some great offers on our amazing wines. As for the confusion .....Evuna is a wine bar, tapas restaurant and shop all in one, Im not sure why we cant just be all three ....

AvoNovember 16th 2009.

I might get a lot of stick for this but I highly rate La Vina on Deansgate. I know that it is just an upmarket branch of the La Tasca chain but their tapas are really good. In September and October they were running a voucher promotion for 50% off all the food and presently, they have the same promition on Sunday - Thursday until 26th. Good food and tremendous value.

AnonymousNovember 16th 2009.

Food here is rubbish. I've been twice (once of my own accord and once against my protests) and found on both occasions it to be rubbish. First time I was served a plate of waifer thin Chorizo that looked like it had come pre-packed from a supermarket. The second time I was served limp over cooked asparagus. Both were accompainied by prawns and meatballs that shouldn't even be compared with El Rincon; the food was more like Las Tasca. Then the price is too expensive. I purposefully disuade people from eating here as it's a disgrace!

AnonymousNovember 16th 2009.

Just to be clear - I have no link whatsover to either Evuna or El Rincon and this is my first post on the subject. As a customer, I have had lunch at Evuna three or four times a year. The food has been OK but not great. Excellent service as has been mentioned already. El Rincon however is a favourite (inexplicably in my view) of a good friend so I have also eaten there regularly. Food OK but not great and poor value for money imho. Service appalling and quite rude on occasion. Wine awful. I'd choose Evuna anyday but if they could up the food, it would be unbeatable.

JohnNovember 16th 2009.

One thing that Evuna has over the ever popular El Rincon is that the staff don't top up the bill. The last time I ate at El Rincon I got a bill for two bottles of wine rather than the two glasses I'd had. When I pointed this out to the waiter he pretended not to speak English but caved in when I explained it to him in Spanish. When I recounted this story elsewhere I was told it was quite common in there.

Mr JNovember 16th 2009.

The first time the husband and I went to Evuna we were served a particularly over salted paella which was quite inedible. We duly complained to our waiter who then summoned the owner. Our concerns were listened to, apologies proffered and items wiped off the bill. It was all done with such a passion for customer service we ended up spending the rest of the evening there chalking up a bill far larger than the cost of the refunded paella. As a consequence we visit on a regular basis, for a meal, a glass or two of cava or rioja. The lovely Frances, Eva and all the staff are always welcoming, and even if we do have an unexpected "hiccup" it's always dealt with without fuss or drama. A lot of town centre venues ought to take notice of Evuna's commitment to customer care.

Truthy ManNovember 16th 2009.

Jon, you don't know Spain do you? They love steak, especially in the centre and to the north. And lamb as the writer mentions. Evuna is ok, the really angry comments on here miss its qualities. I love stopping in for a big glass of Ribera del Deuro.

AnonymousNovember 16th 2009.

city centre rest: evuna food 6/10 bar 7/10.....el rincon food 5/10 bar 4/10.....pesto food 3/10 bar 6/10.... la tasca food 5/10 bar 5/10

DaveNovember 16th 2009.

Tried it once, food far too plain for the price. Was very surprised about that, versus the appearance of the place. No complaints about the service but that's not the point. I guess the reason it hasn't gone down the pan is a steady stream of visitors wanting to dine out near their hotel.

CasNovember 16th 2009.

I'm sorry but that last comment, to me at least, looks like a dreadful attempt by Evuna staff to help themselves out. No one in their right mind could say the food at Evuna is better than El Rincon. If I'm wrong and it isn't an Evuna member of staff, just a person devoid of tastebuds, then I apologise.

CasNovember 16th 2009.

The above rant seems more amateur comedy than amateur food review to me. I'm not sure where all the anti El Rincon stuff is coming from and whilst I appreciate people have different experiences and opinions, it does all seem strange and 'suspicious' may have a point. El Rincon is brilliant authentic tapas. Evuna is a wine shop that has tried to do food and needs to improve on it. 2 of the meals I've had there were so bad I complained and I hate doing that. If they take the advice of other establishments that have had bad reviews and taken it onboard then hopefully they will improve, however from the owners rant I get the impression they think the food is just fine. If the anti El Rincon rants have anything to do with them then that's shameful.

Trevor GormaneNovember 16th 2009.

No the reviewer is right. The food is not shocking it's just not worth the price. It's basic and clumsy as stated. Good for a glass of wine though.

BlameNovember 16th 2009.

Tapas police? Nah he sounds much more like immigration.

Misty 1504November 16th 2009.

Some people are never happy with what they eat.The food is rustic and homely.Try having the Baked Sea Bream in Salt.We having been going for years and never dissapointed.The wines are out of this world.The staff amazing.

AnonymousNovember 16th 2009.

Have been to Evuna a couple of times and the food is good and the service very friendly.not like the Rincon bad service and awful food.

gmoNovember 16th 2009.

I have eaten at Evuna quite a few times, the wine is lovely, food is good and with me being veggie there were plenty of options. I think it has a brilliant atmosphere. I cant complain, I didn't think it was overpriced its town prices. What people must realise businesses in town have to be slightly more pricey because they have silly rent. So when I eat in town I expect it to be more than locally! I will go back!

Bob the ButcherNovember 16th 2009.

I went to Evuna last Saturday and I think most people have summed it up to a tee. Disappointing food, expensive (over £80 for 2 of us) but outstanding wine. If you go knowing this then you will have a decent night out as the venue is lovely and staff friendly and attentive.

Juan de WilmslowNovember 16th 2009.

Anyway, enough of all this. Just opened a Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Nouveau, £6 Waitrose, Wilmslow. Not seen the Nouveau for a few years. It's not bad, if not really worth £6. Sainsbury's' always used to have a decent one, bottled by E. Loron (et Fils, if you must know): consistently good. It's allright. I'm allowed to drink this stuff: I'm a wine-merchant, ma'am.Try a normal bottle of Beaujolais to remind yourselves how good this stuff can be.

Mr JNovember 16th 2009.

"Suspicious" reckons that just because there are two positive posts after a post from Jane (co-owner) that there must be something "dodgy" going on. However a continued and lengthy tirade of bad posts is all in innocence? Get a life, maybe John and Tracy H just felt compelled to add their wisdom to the rant as I did when I first saw all the bad press being meted out.PS Jane. Me and the husband will be in over the weekend to celebrate Evuna's birthday, and we look forward to many more to come!

SootyNovember 16th 2009.

I'm struggling with Evuna these days. Love its atmosphere and its still great for a glass of wine, but on my last visit I was not happy when the staff merrily cleaned tables (with ample doses of spray) and stacked chairs around us before we were near finishing our mediocre food. Not been back since.

Pedro1874November 16th 2009.

Maybe these rants have given Evuna the k.u.t.a. that it needed Mr J? I am always willing to give any restaurant another go.

gmoNovember 16th 2009.

If you are referring to me as the manageress Im not and I am not Polish either! ha ha Unlucky!!! What are you the tapas police?

Juan de WilmslowNovember 16th 2009.

I think that there's something in how we view and expect our food to be.The general idea is that Italy produces the best food and France has the best ability to put it together.Spain doesn't seem to figure on this scale but Spanish food always seems to be just what it should be: clumsy? No! Rustic, relatively basic but no real classics? Probably.I guess I'm being very generalistic but I'm very happy eating at Franco's King William, Wilmslow; Los Amigos, Hazel Grove; Ambiente, Worsley; EL Rincon; La Vina (various); and Evuna (although not too recently). I don't want to appear rude - I'm not writing a critique - but I find that there are generally no surprises culinarily-speaking, either way - poor or exceptionally good. It's usually just good food.

CasNovember 16th 2009.

There's a little restaurant in Plaza Santa Anna in Madrid that brings out a hot ceramic plate and piles of steak for you to cook yourself. Brilliant simple meat served simply. I think why people are a bit miffed with this place is that it wouldn't take much effort to make it much better.

CraigNovember 16th 2009.

I think I will be going somewhere else for lunch then!

AlNovember 16th 2009.

The wine list is not only good but it is incredibly well priced and I love the fact that they have the balls to display take-out prices. This is often the only way of measuring the markups because as far as I can see, the wines are rarely available elsewhere in the UK.Evuna is a bit confused - wine bar, tapas shop, restaurant? I always treat it as a wine bar with tapas to graze on and the food is generally good in my experience.

JohnNovember 16th 2009.

I've been a customer at Evuna for several years and everyone on here is quite right, the food is at best ok but expensive. The reason that a lot of the posts are struggling to find a way defend the place is because the atmosphere is the antithesis of the majority of bars in city centre Manchester with their juggling, coked up barmen and rude door staff. I love the atmosphere in Evuna it's friendly and relaxed, pity about the food but the answer is use it as a bar and don't eat there.

JSJanuary 13th 2011.

Food was lousy - patatas bravas was just boiled new potatoes with a little sauce on top, nothing else was particularly good. Couldn't even do a jug of sangria saying it takes them over a day to make! This place makes La Tasca look amazing!

Much prefer Harpers off John Dalton Street for tapas and just being appreciated rather than an inconvenience. Am yet to try El Rincon though, last couple of times I've tried there was an hour or so wait.

Larry OgdenJanuary 26th 2012.

I've only just come across this Evuna review. I have eaten here, since it opened, probably about 20 times. Normally had good to very good food. Wine by the glass exceptional.

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