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?
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