Established in 2002 as a fine wine merchant importing Spanish wines from smaller, independent, and lesser known wineries, Evuna launched their first restaurant in the Great Northern (via Deansgate) the following year.
Their second restaurant opened in the Northern Quarter four years ago, a much more casual affair perfectly suiting the laid back vibe in the area, but with the same quality Spanish cuisine and boutique wines firmly at the forefront.
Now founder and wine expert Jane Dowler is opening a third restaurant in Knutsford in August. It will be their biggest operation yet, set over three floors in the iconic Tudor-style Watson’s Building on King Street, with an outside garden space complete with retractable roof for all year round al fresco eating and drinking.
Like its Manchester counterparts, the branch will be hosting regular wine tasting sessions, changing monthly wine specials, and wine merchant services where customers can take their favourite wines home with them by the bottle or the case. At a very reasonable price too.
Clearly they are doing something right. We visited the original restaurant in the prestigious Great Northern Warehouse on Deansgate to try some of the finest tapas, main course specials and paellas in the city.
We started with some classic tapas. Originally thin slices of bread or cured meat, the snacks were introduced in bars to cover wine glasses between sips and keep away the fruit flies. Innkeepers realised their sale of alcohol increased as the salty snacks activated the drinkers thirst, and tapas are now as important as the drink itself.
Great for sharing, there are dozens to choose from and the portions are big, but it’s worth knowing you can order just three smaller plates for £10.99 from a smaller menu Monday – Saturday 12-6, and on Sundays 1-9, if you’re just wanting a bit of a taster.
Pan Catalan (£4.20) is a simple toasted bread rubbed with garlic and topped with ripe tomatoes, a good olive oil and sea salt. It’s one of the most well-loved and widely eaten tapas from the Catalonia region in north eastern Spain, and a great way to start your meal.
We ate ours with that other must order dish of Calamares (£6.75), plump and delicately golden fried squid, fantastic with a good squeeze of lemon and the accompanying aioli.
Filetitos (£8.50) are the finest thin slices of seared fillet steak marinated in chilli and garlic. Again simple, but very effective.
It’s always worth ordering from Evuna’s regional monthly specials menu. June is Catalonia and we tried the Salmon En Papillote (£7.20), an impressive and fragrant parcel of salmon fillet with vegetables in a lime and tomato vinaigrette.
For our main course we went for Spain’s national dish of paella. Traditionally cooked over an open fire and served in the same pan, at Evuna it can be made for one guest and up. Just allow enough time for the preparation and cooking as it’s made completely from scratch.
The Frutos del Mar Seafood Paella (£16.35) a colourful triumph with prawns, mussels, squid, white fish, tomatoes and, unusually, peppers, which I haven’t come across before but actually prefer to peas. A real celebration of a dish and fantastic for sharing.
We drank a couple of excellent wines served by the glass (beautiful glasses we should add at the right temperature too.) The white Torreblanca Les Atzvares (£6 175ml) is a floral blend of Macabeo, Muscat, Xarel lo from Penedes, not too dry and rounded enough to take on some of the stronger flavours of the tapas. And the Vina Hermosa Rioja Crianza (£6.50 175ml) was gorgeous with our seafood paella.
If you’re too full for a big dessert, opt for a smaller portion with a glass of Moscatel for only £6 together. This citrus and flowery sweet wine a perfect match for their Spanish cheesecake, not so much like the creamier American variety but lighter, like a cake with added flour, and much less base. A great end to a great meal.
For more details of the Knutsford opening visit www.evuna.com