If the combination of foundation reggae music, sumptuous gyoza dumplings and lack of fuss appeals to you, Tootoomoo is a place you should consider adding to your list.
On the night of my visit, the gyoza dumplings were outshone only by a course of softshell crab in tempura batter – possibly the best softshell crab I’ve ever had, owing to its piping, crunchy batter and Asian-inspired piquancy. More, it was priced fairly at £7.95 for a generous portion.
There are few frills to be experienced at Tootoomoo. The room at the Crouch End branch (the chain’s original and flagship restaurant) is Maoist red, with laminated tables and wooden chairs. There is a garden beyond the far end of the banquette seating, making for an attractive and summer-friendly annex to an otherwise ordinary venue.
The restaurant’s theme fuses Thai, Japanese and Chinese, with the menu duly reflecting this triumvirate of Asian gastronomy. You’ll find duck rolls, pad Thai, curries and maki on the menu, which can be drowned with a branded beer (such as Tsingtao) or a house-level wine. Aromatic duck – such as that seen in archetypal Chinese cuisine, with pancakes and hoi sin sauce – was first class and far better than the same dish at a number of expensive venues I’d experienced. Likewise, a Thai green curry was well above competent, proving that Tootoomoo has value for money at the heart of its offering.
Service is straightforward, ranging from friendly to tepid. Interaction is limited, seemingly by the nature of the restaurant, which seats and feeds the customer in a processional style. I can imagine the format works particularly well for large groups or families. Indeed, there were several children eating with their parents that same night. Sadly, one boy saw fit to use his chopsticks as drumsticks and bang away on a metal lampshade. Writing as a parent, I’d never let my son disturb other diners like that – not for more than a few seconds anyway. Writing as a customer, I was disappointed that the serving staff didn’t intervene and bring an end to the din.
Lamps feature again in my second minor complaint, which relates to the overhead lighting. Overhead lighting annoys me – and, at Tootoomoo, it is even worse in that the lampshades are just above head height. If you are tall (like me), it’s at about forehead level. A thumping headache, brought on by an insanely humid evening and the barrage of unnatural light, overcame me by the close of the meal.
An unplanned “one for the road” after the meal revealed one of the restaurant’s significant virtues: its proximity to the Railway Tavern, a gem of a pub on Crouch End Hill. We are talking a proper Victorian pub – vaulted ceiling, old mahogany tables, cabin-style lamps, antiquities and a raft of other delightful decorative features to please the senses. An adjacent drinker nursed a pint while completing a crossword; a group of men and women played cards. The bar boasted a number of real ales as well as staple lagers. I’d travel back to the area purely for the pub, so refreshingly authentic was its interior and general ambience. If only you could take Tootoomoo’s food across to the Railway Tavern…
12 Crouch End Hill
12 Crouch End Hill
by C Ley