Evelyn is a fictional character and Evelyn’s Table feels like a fictional place. Hidden under the kind of pub you’d wish was your local, deep beneath the thronging Soho crowds above, lies this kitchen table-style restaurant. Evelyn Mulwray, the eponymous character from Roman Polanski’s 1974 film Chinatown, was known for finding pockets of the city within which she was at peace and could be wholly herself. I would love to make Evelyn’s Table one of mine.
That is not to say this isn’t a special place, because it is. But it is the kind of special place you don’t feel like you’ve ticked off. Rather, it’s the spot you would return to time and time again: birthdays, anniversaries, everyday luxuries. This most recent version of the restaurant, under the helm of chef Luke Selby and his brothers Nat and Theo, is so truly perfect for the locale. Unassuming yet vibrantly wonderful. Subtle yet sure in its abilities. You know you’re dining somewhere unique, but you feel just as welcome as you would in the restaurant at the top of the road.
Onto the practicalities. Dinner at Evelyn’s Table is a five-course affair, with a few surprise elements sprinkled throughout to joyous effect. You can order drinks by your own preference, but it would be remiss to not indulge in the pairing. Honey Spencer, wine director for the Palomar Group, truly knows her stuff. Alongside maître d’ Aidan, she has curated the most intuitive partnerships to the Selby brother’s food. From sparkling sake to post-communist Slovakian skin-contact pinot grigio, the beverages are almost as exciting as the food – an inspired combo that speaks to the synchronicity of the team here, from the Mulwray wine bar on the top floor, right down to subterranean Evelyn’s Table.
A meal at Evelyn’s Table feels like anti-fine dining. Not because the food isn’t up to scratch – it is more than – but because it lacks any of the formality one might come to expect. You feel like you’ve been welcomed into the home of a friend – in fact, you’ll probably leave wishing the Selby brothers, Aidan and Honey, were your friends. The whole evening is soundtracked by the likes of The Notorious B.I.G., Dead Prez and other ’90s classics. The brothers deliver each course themselves, running you through the ingredients and stopping for a chat and a laugh. Even the food seems to reject the rigidity of fine dining. It more than exceeds the technical finesse and artistic plating required to fall under that label, but it opts for a more experimental approach when it comes to flavours, often pulling in notes overlooked by classic cuisine.
There is a Japanese element that underpins each course, acting as a harmonising flavour palette to a series of dishes that traverse continents and push the boundaries of ingenuity yet all take refuge in their deeply seasonal, largely British ingredients. Seafood is sourced from Cornwall; mussels are wild grown and hand foraged by a brother-sister duo. Courgette flowers featured when we visited, but won’t remain for long due to their month-long, hyper-seasonality. All of it was delightful; sometimes mellow, other times punchy, always glorious.
Silky slices of sashimi mackerel are paired ingeniously with plum, a powerhouse hit of umami courtesy of umeboshi and finished with an ultra-fruity olive oil that brings a binding unctuousness. Lightly poached mussels retain all their saline flavours, and are served in a “taco” of tempura shiso leaf, atop a bed of acidicly sweet tomatoes and finished with what I believe was a miso mousse. The best duck I’ve had in recent memory is dry aged in salt chambers, snap roasted, smoked and finished on the hibachi grill, to produce tender, pink slices of meat, with a crisp, almost blackened skin that has soaked up all those wonderful carcinogens. Said duck is served with a marmalade sauce, mashed turnip that gives the humble potato a run for its money, spiced raisins and a jasmine-infused jus. I could take you through dish by dish but, by the time you visit, the menu will probably be completely different. Hyperseasonality, you know?
I will, however, take you through a play by play of the dessert. Phew. It was like an English garden in a bowl. Riffing on the much-loved trifle, there was a savarin – a liqueur-soaked cake similar to rum baba – set atop the jammiest blackcurrant jelly, topped with fresh multi-toned blackberries and hay (yes, hay) ice cream. It was almost ridiculously attractive, resembling the crown jewels, and a powerhouse of a dessert. This was, however, taken to another level thanks to the ingenious alcohol pairing: mead. Made in Peckham from local honey, the Bible-approved beverage finished the garden metaphor beautifully.
If I was forced to cook multiple courses twice an evening in a compact space with my two siblings I think one of us would leave with either a singed head of hair or a knife in the back. The fact that the Selby brothers manage to run such a smooth ship, let alone one free from familial bickering, should earn them a Nobel Peace Prize. Never mind the fact that they do so and produce food like that. Honestly, this was one of my favourite meals this year. Simply go – you might see me there.
This week’s food and drink news
Morito is one of my favourite places to eat in the city, and the news that they’re opening a basement tapas and live music bar makes me incredibly happy that I’m moving back to the area soon. Opening on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, they’ll host a special Morito music night every Tuesday, complete with a set menu.
Honestly, those Brixton locals must be eating so well at the moment. La Nonna is joining the increasingly large number of restaurants opening in the south London neighbourhood, moving from the street food world to their first permanent location. Head there for a perfect meal of campari spritz, endless plates of pasta and pillowy tiramisu.
Having been closed since lockdown, BAO Fitzrovia has finally reopened. To celebrate the move, the Taiwanese restaurant is collaborating with some of the city’s most exciting bartenders for a series of guest cocktails that incorporate Taiwanese ingredients and flavours.
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