Sunday, 17 May 2009

2...Sixteen: A heart and soul warming oasis

I'm not sure if you've noticed but since we've moved to the other end of Crouch End we've stumbled across quite a few good places to eat. Thanks to our good friends Julia and Perry we were introduced to a recently opened venue called 2...Sixteen run by the larger than life Yvette. The name of the restaurant is a great mnemonic device, as that's its address on Middle Lane. We went back last night for more of Yvette's great Caribbean fusion food and again were treated not only to some sublime flavours and textures, but also got the chance to find out more about Yvette.

The restaurant is modestly furnished and features a changing collection of art by local artists in the community. One wall is rendered in wood cladding and you get the feeling you could be in a secret beach hut somewhere in the Caribbean. The other walls are a warm red. There's a tiny bar in the back which Yvette plans on kitting out with some tables so that she can serve tasting portions of some of the menu selections to go along with her oh so good Rum Punch.

On this particular night we were determined to work our way further through the menu and try new dishes instead of gravitating to the immediate favourites from last time which were succulent spicy Jerk chicken and Yvette's signature dish 2...Sixteen fish stew that features whole tilapia, okra, pepper and more of her magic spice combinations.

So we ordered Saltfish Fritters for a starter and Mutton Stew and Ackee and Saltfish for our mains. The saltfish fritters were cooked in a wonderfully light batter and were served with a spicy aubergine mayonnaise that offset the saltiness of the fritters.

The mutton stew featured cubes of meltingly tender mutton that tasted and felt like it had been slowly cooked in the oven for many hours. It was flavoured with a spice combination that complemented the flavour of the meat without overpowering it. Ackee and saltfish was my favourite. I'd never had Ackee before. It's part of a fruit and looks a bit like scrambled egg. The dish had a heady kick of scotch bonnet that i can best describe as brain lubricating. After one bite i just felt this delicious glow wend it's way from my belly to my brain.

We drank a bottle of crisp rose that was a great foil to the spiciness of the food. Our pudding was gold leaf dusted chocolate boxes served with a fruit coulis that Yvette whipped up of mango and raspberries, served with a bowl of vanilla ice cream. Truth be told, i'd skip the chocolate boxes and go for just the fruit and ice cream.

The total bill was a very reasonable £39 which included 1 starter, 2 mains, dessert and a bottle of rose.

On both occasions Yvette came out from the kitchen to meet and greet her customers. She really makes you feel welcome and like you're one of the family. It's that kind of warmth and genuine pleasure in serving her food to her guests that makes Yvette so special.

We got the chance to ask her a few questions last night.

What's the philosophy behind 2...Sixteen?
I love food and people. I like the self satisfaction it gives me that I can cook for people and can cook for anyone in the world. it the pleasure of seeing other people eat my food.

What is your idea of comfort food?
It has to be fish or seafood. Seasoned with fresh ginger, spring onions, fresh coriander, soy sauce and cooked en papillote.

What are your favourite food places in Crouch End?
I like the Clocktower shop for their fresh herbs and leaves and pea shoots. They have a nice markety feel to the shop and not unreasonable prices. For breakfasts I like Banners. It's casual, it's unpretentious, it is what it is.

What's your essential piece of cooking equipment?
My dutchy pots. The oldest one i have is 40 years old. They're cast iron, and they say the blacker the pot, the sweeter the food.

Sweet or savoury?

Guilty pleasure?
Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps with Lucozade[Yvette looks horrified and laughs]

Who has been your biggest influence?
My grandmother. She was very adventurous and with food. She was always experimenting. When we moved here from Guyana she managed to give the food an essence of home and adapt to what was available.

There is a wealth of new ingredients and flavours to be found in Caribbean food. Yvette is on a mission to make it accessible to everyone and anyone. And she is doing a great job of it so far!

2...Sixteen / 216 Middle Lane N8 7LA / tel: 02083482572

2...Sixteen on Urbanspoon

Monday, 11 May 2009

Another discovery in Crouch End: Troodos Greek Restaurant

In our new neck of the woods there are several eateries along Priory Road that we've promised ourselves to try out in the very near future. Troodos is one of them. We have walked by it on several occasions and have been intrigued by their menu and specials board.

On Saturday we decided to give it a go. We were there very early, about 6 PM, and nearly had the place to ourselves save a lone diner. The owners and staff were seated at the back, acknowledged our presence and carried on with their conversation. In the background Greek news on the radio was playing.

Our friendly, laid-back waiter came by with menus. I didn't get past the first page where several set menus were described. We decided to go with the Fish Meze at £14.30a person, and a bottle of crisp dry Retsina.

Shortly after that the cold Meze started coming. First a big sectioned platter of taramasalata, two types of potato salad, houmous, marinated beans, and a cucumber salad. Then separate bowls of smoked salmon salad, octopus salad, prawn cocktail and crab stick cocktail. All accompanied with piping hot pitta. Something told me to hold back on the cold stuff but i couldn't restrain myself. It was mostly good, our favourites being the octopus and marinated potato salad. I mostly avoided the taramasalata which was a lurid E-number pink and i can't really abide by crab stick.

Next up was the fried selection which was our favourite of the whole meal. Sardines and squid rings were lightly battered and fried and served with wedges of lemon. Totally my kind of food -- they weren't chewy or stodgy at all.

By this time we were definitely in that glazed eye stage where we know we've had too much to eat but keep going. The final offering of a massive plate of grilled fish and a bowl of Greek Salad came out. We were reassured by our waiter that we could stay as long as we needed to finish. I was able to muster a few bites but really was overstuffed. The grilled fish that night was salmon and red snapper. They were a bit overdone which was disappointing and were served with deep fried scampi which is not something i'd usually go for. No complaints on the greek salad which had a simple dressing and gorgeous creamy feta.

We both hit our limit and decided to take the mostly uneaten grilled fish home along with the leftover fried fish. By the end of the meal the place had started filling up, the Greek news was switched over to Rebetika and it definitely felt more like restaurant, less like a dining room in someone's home.

I can imagine on a really hot day that this place would be an oasis. The Mediterranean blue walls can almost evoke the sea or sky and have a calming, cooling effect. We will definitely be back in July or August to try Troodos again, with bigger appetites.

Troodos/179 Priory Road, London N8 8NB/02083429188

Troodos Greek Taverna on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

a nice slice of cake

a nice slice of cake
Originally uploaded by silamuta
hi. just to say we have not forgotten bout travels. just have been busy moving, again, and wondering where in the world to put stuff when you have moved into a small house. ah yes well there go. eek! anyhoo, in between unpacking and stuffin and getting our healing dog back mel made a yum victoria sponge. back with more info very soon esp now that we have broadband again. yay!