Evde City Bar and Grill, 25 Samad Vurghun, Baku
Tel.: (+994 12) 404 8213 www.saffron.az
NEW CHEF at this venue.
Isn’t it amazing what you can get on the internet these days?! Well, just look at me, I found myself a mail order groom exactly twelve years ago and I haven’t looked back since. I’d been a single (ish) Mum of two for 17 years and, with my children on the brink of leaving home to go off to university, I just liked the idea of a bit of lighthearted dating; nothing serious, you understand, I was far too set in my little ways for that and not about to give up my independence! So, following some persuasion from a friend who assured me that the internet wasn’t just chockablock with geeks and nerds and who, herself, had found the, as it later turned out temporary, love of her life there, I joined a well-known dating site. Up went a flattering photo and a brief profile full of demands for the near perfect man. There followed a good eighteen months of coffees, drinks, dinners, theatre and cinema with a variety of ‘interviewees’, a couple of flirtations, a trip to the Cannes Film Festival with a film producer, occasional assignations with a Canadian thriller writer, many interesting conversations, some hair raising moments, astounding insights into human nature and weakness, an invitation to live in a caravan, another to participate in a Caligula party (I never dared ask exactly what this entailed…), both rejected, endless giggles and laughter and a generally fun time. Content in my nice home and busy with work and an active social life, it suited me just fine to dress up occasionally and trip the light fantastatic, then return home to my cat, my slouch wear and the life I had made for myself.
Then, one day in late October, I came across a photo of a nice looking, charming sounding man who was, so the profile read, in the medical profession. Being an avid watcher of ‘ER’, I had a ‘thing’ about doctors, so I made quick contact and we met up in a deserted wine bar with an atmosphere about as conducive to dating as a morgue. There he was, my very own George Clooney, but I was late and he, a freshly minted singleton after almost 30 years of marriage, spent the entire evening praising his ex wife. Not an auspicious start, you might think. But, even so, the conversation flowed and we clicked. When he asked to see me again, suggesting we meet at the shoe department of Harvey Nichols, I knew I was on to a good thing! A few months later at the Waldorf Astoria in New York he went down on one knee flashing some decently blingy hardware and the rest, as they say, is history. It wasn’t all plain sailing to begin with,though. Blending families is never easy and adapting lateish in life from a ‘Me’ to a ‘We’ has its challenges too but he was patient and I was completely bowled over, so off we sailed into the sunset and a happy ending. Thank you, Internet!
Late October is not just the anniversary of our first meeting in cyber space but also, as it happens, the lovely husband’s birthday, so we have plenty to celebrate. Two years ago, when he hit a round number, I gave him a surprise Sunday Lunch in our home with the entire family around a long, heavily laden table, the highlight being a short sassy performance by ‘The Polka Dots’ (www.thepolkadots.co.uk), an attractive girl swing trio who, much to his delight, lindy hopped around him singing ‘Mr. Sandman, bring me a Dream’ and similar numbers. This year, in Baku and with our loved ones far away, celebrations were going to be more sedate but, I was determined, just as special. Having had a wonderful evening at Evde Amburan in late summer, I chose the newly reopened Evde City for our anniversary cum birthday dinner a deux to sample what head chef Baku Wunderkind Reuben Gould cooks here.
Where Evde Amburan is summery and sea kissed, Evde City is wintery warm and cosy. Evde means ‘At Home’ and this restaurant does truly have the ambience of a private residence, the library of a Scottish castle, perhaps, and reminds me a little of Black’s private members’ club in London’s Soho, an art and literary hangout of many years standing. There are books and carpets, dimmed lighting, dark wood furniture, leather upholstery, paisley (buta) printed soft furnishings, all coupled with some interesting contemporary art on the walls, including the currently very ‘hot’ British urban artist by the confrontational name of Pure Evil. The menu is quite short and contained, offering up International cuisine and, what I suspect, are the Saffron Restaurant Group’s most popular dishes.
We shared the ever delicious crispy artichokes to start with. The lovely husband then had the tenderest juiciest Waggyu sirloin, beautifully marinated, with very good roast vegetables. I ordered pistachio coated cod with quinoa and lobster vinaigrette which was also excellent although I would have enjoyed a little contrasting tartness, some roast cherry tomatoes, maybe, to enhance the taste. We were treated to a complimentary cheese board; I don’t know why but I certainly wasn’t going to question it. The cheese came with plump juicy black grapes and little toasty crispy crackers and was absolutely wonderful in its variety. To finish, we ordered a shared banana crostata with vanilla ice-cream which tasted similar to banoffee pie. Perfect. We drank two glasses of celebratory champagne, a bottle of South African Chenin Blanc, a bottle of still water and one Americano coffee. The meal cost AZN160.65 including 5% service charge. Service was discreet, friendly and efficient.
As we left, the rather good live music duo were quietly playing the old Eric Clapton classic ‘Layla’ with the unforgettable refrain ‘Baby, you’ve got me on my knees’, an ode to helpless love. Very apt for the occasion, if you ask me.