Resident hedonist Lucy Shaw heads to the 14-seater Evelyn’s Table in Soho, from the team behind The Palomar, for deep fried courgette flowers, smoked eel tart and a heavenly Puligny-Montrachet.
The concept: Named after Faye Dunaway’s character in the 1974 Roman Polanski film Chinatown in a hat tip to its Soho location, Evelyn’s Table is a 14-seater micro restaurant in the bowels of The Blue Posts pub on Rupert Street, which has operated as a drinking den since 1739 and was recently taken over by Layo and Zoe Paskin, the brother and sister duo behind the wildly successful Palomar a stone’s throw away and The Barbary in Covent Garden.
Evelyn’s Table is not to be confused with Evelyn tables – a set of four anatomical preparations on wooden boards acquired by English writer and diarist John Evelyn in Padua in 1646 and now owned by the Royal College of Surgeons.
The décor: Housed in what used to be the pub’s beer cellar, the restaurant is so tiny that it’s basically a basement kitchen with bar stools. Action is centred around the L-shaped grey marble bar that seats 11, with a further three seats available on a separate counter.
The small proportions of the space intensifies the atmosphere, making it feel like you’re sitting in a test kitchen and have been allowed a rare glimpse inside not only the chefs’ workspace but their minds too.
The décor is pared down and industrial. Given that the room has no windows and is made up of 80% kitchen, they’ve done a good job at keeping the clean air pumping, as at no point did it feel like they needed to whack on the extractor fan.
A nice touch along the bar is the addition of Instagram-friendly retro brass lamps that allow diners to photograph their food under a spotlight if they so desire. The branded plates also add a touch of class and serve as a clever marketing tool for those ubiquitous Insta shots.
The food: Headed up by chef Luke Robinson of Bonnie Gull and the Corner Room at the Town Hall Hotel, Evelyn’s takes inspiration from Southern European cuisine, though Robinson works predominantly with seasonal British produce.
Fish comes fresh from Cornwall every morning and the catches of the day are presented to diners on wooden boards along with the other ingredients they’ll be cooked with in a jigsaw puzzle-like game allowing you to piece the dish together in your head before deciding whether to commit to it or not.
The menu is divided Italian style into snacks, antipasti, primi and secondi. If, like me, you prefer tapas style dining that allows you to try a multitude of dishes, the best way to enjoy Evelyn’s Table is by focusing on the antipasti.
They are the perfect size for sharing and all hover around the affordable £10 mark. Everything we tried was interesting and delightful in its own way. Deep fried courgette flowers stuffed with gooey goat’s cheese and drizzled with honey tasted like edible sunshine and took me straight to northern Italy. The batter was super crunchy but not at all oily, and flower-shaped slivers of courgette offered welcome freshness amid the richness.
Also unmissable in the snacks section were the cod beignets – plump croquete-like parcels served with the best (and creamiest) taramasalata I’ve ever eaten that was a world away from the flamingo pink shop bought versions. The addition of crushed peanuts, a sprinkling of paprika and discs of mooli was inspired.
During the evening you get to know the chefs as they double as waiters, passing your dishes the small distance from kitchen to bar and explaining every ingredient that went into them.
It’s a wonderfully inclusive experience that helps connect the chefs to the people eating and enjoying their food, rather than them being stuck inside a smoky kitchen unaware of who they’re cooking for.
Signature dishes: The menu is a moveable feast, so it’s unlikely any dish will hang around for too long, but the steak tartare seems to have been on since the beginning and is well worth a try, if only for the heavenly cloud of accompanying Parmesan foam.
Served with strips of crunchy bruschetta, deep fried capers added a pleasing salty tang to the iron-rich meat, while the Parmesan cloud offered layers of umami-rich creaminess.
One of the most memorable dishes of the night was also one of the simplest – modest spears of crunchy, butter-bathed English asparagus served with earthy girolles, whole hazelnuts and lime-laced mayo. There was confidence in its simplicity and the way it made a hero of the humble vegetable. It also showed off the restaurant’s astute understanding of texture.
Without wanting to give away all of Evelyn’s secrets, or sound too obsequiously gushy, the smoked eel and caramelised onion tart was also a thing of beauty, the bacon-like smokiness of the eel pairing seamlessly with the sweet buttery crunch of the pastry and the inherent sweetness of the onions, the whole ensemble refreshed by crunchy green peas bursting with summery flavour.
The drinks: While you wait for your space at the bar, pop up to the first floor for a cocktail at The Mulwray, a bay blue space strewn with millennial pink pouffes. We started off strongly with a fortifying duo of Sherry-laced concoctions.
My Linda Evangelisa 51 blended Rittenhouse rye with palo cortado Sherry, Evangelista Ratafia (see what they did there) and dry curaçao in a savoury sophisticated sip that twisted on a Manhatthan.
On the wine front, the Coravin selection is the most interesting part of the menu and the prices won’t make you wince.
We began with a rich yet refreshing flute of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve then enjoyed a golden glass of Mischief and Mayhem Puligny-Montrachet Sous les Puits 2009, which was utterly delightful and for me the pinnacle of what top white Burgundy can achieve with its golden depth, creamy texture, lemon scent and nutty finish.
The reds run the gamut from a Venetian Cabernet Franc and a Kamptal Pinot Noir to a Guimaro Mencía from Ribeira Sacra, which offered a pure palate of juicy red fruit with a slate backbone.
Who to know: Cedric, the incredibly charming and rather dashing French manager, who will make sure your glass is always full.
Don’t leave without: Sticking around for dessert. With only 14 seats the table turnover can be quick but it’s worth lingering for pudding. The tarte tatin is a staff favourite but was off the menu on our visit.We can highly recommend the pleasingly tart lemon tart served with a scoop of thirst quenching blood orange sorbet, which is finished off theatrically with a bit of blowtorch action.
Last word: Evelyn’s Table ticks all the trend boxes with its funky house soundtrack, counter dining set up, sharing plates offering, tattooed young chefs, friendly staff, punchy flavours, attention to texture, small but interesting wine list, and ever-evolving European inspired menu that shines a light on local seasonal ingredients.
With half of the 14 seats offered to walk-ins and the other seven available to book, micro site Evelyn’s Table is a masterclass in how to open a successful contemporary restaurant during these most cut-throat and competitive of times.