Asian Dining in Crouch End,
Guest post by Oliver Saunders:
Crouch End feels like the kind of place that you end up in when you were trying to get somewhere else. Even the most ardent admirer of the area wouldn’t exactly call it the centre of the culinary universe. But tucked away in this North London district is a treat of truly cosmic proportions; Tootoomoo.
Tootoomoo is a perfect tonic to the fussy, pretentious restaurants you so often find lurking in London’s dark corners. Pan Asian cuisine is already popular across the capital but Tootoomoo makes it accessible and more importantly doesn’t fix what isn’t broken. There’s a relaxed atmosphere and the staff are friendly. There’s a familiar feel – and I mean that in the most positive way. In fact, I’d challenge anyone to go to Tootoomoo Crouch End and feel anything other than welcome. It’s a place that isn’t trying too hard. The food is undoubtedly at the centre of Tootoomoo’s universe and everything else revolves around it.
So whether you’re enjoying the sushi (I cannot recommend this highly enough), the excellent ribs or the soft shell crab tempura, you’re getting that dish at its best. No nonsense, no needless gimmicks – just good Asian food, done well. Simplicity sounds like damning with faint praise but in this instance, it is to Tootoomoo’s enormous credit. The simple fact is that the flavours and the ingredients are rich enough and exciting enough already. Tootoomoo’s strength is allowing these to flourish without feeling the need to concoct crazy creations for the sake of proving individuality. Even the salads (Duck and Watermelon was a particular favourite) stick with this theme; unfussy and delicious.
That’s not to say that Tootoomoo lacks creativity because it certainly doesn’t. The cocktail menu is a real hit and it’s where Tootoomoo allows itself some real flair and imagination. The Firecracker (Vodka and Watermelon) and Effervescent Elderflower (Gin, Elderflower and Ginger) are wonderful. Whilst undoubtedly inventive, the cocktail menu continues the theme which Tootoomoo seems to have put at its centre; simple, tasty and classy. In fact, one of the unique qualities of the cocktail menu is that it actually works with the food menu. At too many restaurants, the cocktails and the food seem like different parts of the experience; very separate and self-contained. You might have cocktails before or after but not during your meal. At Tootoomoo, the cocktails actually suited the food and enhanced it, which in turn enhanced the whole experience.
What is also interesting is the social nature of the eating. The tables are close together, with a sharing approach encouraged. The result is that you enjoy your food with someone instead of opposite someone. But the real ace in the hole for Tootoomoo and the reason the customer base seems so loyal is quite simply the value. The bang for your buck is outstanding. No main over a tenner! No dessert over a fiver! No wine above £25! Moreover, the generous portions and tapas nature of the eating also mean that you can eat to your own personal version of full without your money disappearing into a black hole. In London, that’s truly worth writing home about.
Tootoomoo is not flawless. The wonderfully decorated bar, with its alchemy inspired bottles and its bright entrance, is somewhat at odds with the main restaurant. The restaurant area is very red with more than a little hint of the fifty shades about it. With such good food and such a stylish bar, the dimly lit tables are a bit of a let-down. It’s a shame that the decor distracts when the focus should be the food. It’s a minor criticism but one that needs addressing.
Overall, Tootoomoo Crouch End is a triumph. The fresh cocktails, the variety of the menu and the stellar food give the restaurant universal appeal. If you were searching for a good reason to visit Crouch End – Tootoomoo is definitely it!
12 Crouch End Hill,
London, N8 8AA