It’s been a while since we compiled our list of places to go for a Sunday roast so we’ve set ourselves the task of finding the best that Manchester has to offer. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it. If a good old Sunday roast can’t unite our kingdom in these uncertain times of political turmoil, what can?
During the Industrial Revolution, families would leave a cut of meat in the oven before going to church of a Sunday morning, ready to eat by the time they arrived home for lunch. Traditionally consisting of roast meat, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, vegetables, stuffing and gravy. Not much has changed with this winning formula since way back then.
Our first stop is Evelyn’s Café & Bar in the gorgeous Smithfields building in the Northern Quarter. What used to be Superstore has been subtly transformed by the Zanna Group who also own Mughli and Damson & Co. The original features of the bricked warehouse are still on show, with the addition of lots of fresh plants adorning the walls, ceilings, and window boxes, all beautifully maintained and gloriously green. The effect is a light and refreshing space that is both relaxed and vibrant.
We arrive shortly after midday and the place is already three-quarters full. The menu is as fresh as the surroundings, with healthy, nutrient packed dishes aplenty including a large number of vegetarian and gluten-free options. Our server Jason couldn’t be more welcoming and helpful with recommendations and tips on what to order. Although there are no two course/ three course options, we decided to go for three courses to give us a better idea of the menu and style of food Evelyn’s has to offer.
We chose starters from the small plates section, of smoked salmon (£6.50) and crispy duck (£7.50). Some might avoid ordering smoked salmon to start, feeling it a bit safe, something that can be thrown together at home. But this one was a really good example of how good a starter it can be. A generous portion of very fresh pink salmon, not fatty at all, with big chunks of ripe beetroot and a mild and creamy horseradish cream. Crispy duck was just as good, served with fresh plums, chillis, coriander and sesame dressing. Both were the perfect size for a starter before a big main course.
So to the main event. Our roasts. The meat itself is always the main criterion for judgement, with beef being the trickiest to please all. They served the sirloin of roast beef (£16) just pink which is a good middle ground all round. The meat was juicy and tender without being chewy. It came with a great big Yorkshire pudding which made my companion who ordered chicken drool with envy. Why do they only serve Yorkies with the beef?
No complaints with the free range chicken (£13.50), though. Great crisped skin, moist and tasty, with about half the bird on the plate. Vegetables included parsnips, carrots, mashed swede, broccoli, cabbage and roast potatoes. That’s already taken me over my five a day! No stuffing, so deduct a point there. Gain a point, though, for the best gravy. Rich, sticky and stocky to sum up. Just not enough of it on the plate so we had to ask for more.
As if we hadn’t eaten enough, Jason persuaded us to order three desserts for the two of us. Oh dear. Chocolate tart (£5.50) showed great technique and skill, although we would have preferred something other than the clotted cream on the side as together they were too rich. The matcha crème brulee (£4.50) was probably the least successful dish of our lunch, being half an inch too shallow, and under the well caramelised top was an ugly, off green, slightly mushy brulee which didn’t quite have the desired texture or creamy firmness of a good one. Apple crumble (£4.50) was served at the table, silver service style, and was my favourite of the three desserts with a gorgeously creamy custard, and apples chunky and tart. Washed down with a couple of glasses of their Spanish Artesa Org rioja (£5.60 for a 125ml glass) and we are content!
What a great start to our search. We had a cracking Sunday roast at Evelyn’s. We ate too much and took a very slow stroll to catch our train. When we got home we had a nap. Just how a Sunday should be.