Mark Hill has been forging the Street Cleaver reputation for a little while now, hosting a few pop-up dining events that triggered good word of mouth while also serving great food in a couple of pubs. We bumped into Mark (Mr Cleaver to you) a while back when he was in gainful employment at the Biltmore, but it’s been a real pleasure watching the development of Street Cleaver toward the news that he was taking over the kitchen in the Evil Eye. Offering both brunch and evening service from an Asian themed menu we were keen enough to pop along on opening night and see what was happening for ourselves.
The Evil Eye has its focus firmly on cocktails and spirits, which is something that’s put me off going for some time as the sickly sweet booze scent hits you immediately upon entry. Luckily this was masked to a degree by a chap at the end of the bar whose sole job seemed to be to prepare mounds of herbs for inclusion in drinks throughout the course of the evening. We got some drinks in and set about the menu. The evening menu offers variants of presentation and fillings that encourage you to choose a format (i.e. bao bun, tacos) and then compliment it with a protein and sides.
With only time for a light meal we chose the confit Miso Belly Pork Bao buns and accompanying gunpowder fries while making a note to return and try mushroom carpaccio and smoked tofu in particular from the evening menu. When placing our order it was pleasing to see service running smoothly. With it being the first night (and a Friday no less), a few hiccups would have been not unexpected, but servers knew the menu and food arrived briskly without any confusion.
Three Bao buns were beautifully presented and identical, betraying an impressive level of attention to detail, with pickled cucumber and vegan kimchi delicately complimenting the Miso flavour of the pork and hoisin source in perfect balance. Gunpowder fries perhaps didn’t reach the same marvellous heights of the bao buns but that’s perhaps a reflection of my high expectations rather than to say there was anything to criticise. Freshly prepared, generously portioned and well-spiced with fresh chilli, coriander and spring onion, these would perfectly compliment a cold beer later in an evening.
Having enjoyed the evening food so much I then took my first opportunity to pop back and order the Indian egg rolls from the brunch menu. These were presented on a paratha and generously garnished with slaw, spring onion and paprika oil. The generous spice in the dish certainly woke me up while the colour on the plate brightened up my morning! This was a wonderful dish, not over developed but full of character and very hard to argue with for £6.
If I have a concern about any of this, it’s that the venue, rightly or wrongly, is not likely to attract the diverse audience this food deserves. It’s a matter of record that I can be a contrary and grumpy sod, but I’m always happy to stray from my normal path when good food is in prospect, as it clearly is here. I just hope that if people have preconceptions about the location they’re willing to give it a go, I’ll certainly be making a return visit and working my way through the menu.