In the Mood for Chinese Food
Seeking variety away from the usual Full English for brunch..? Tootoomoo has the answer with a blizzard of Asian food quite able to see you through the remainder of the weekend…
Review by Andy Barnham
Tootoomoo Islington, a stone’s throw from Highbury and Islington tube station, is the southern most of the four Tootoomoo restaurants currently open in the London area (other branches being in Highgate, Crouch End and Whetstone). Serving Pan- Asian food, the menu reads like a ‘Best Of’ including sushi and dim sum among the ‘Tootootapas’ and Pad Thai, Lemongrass and Rendang Curry listed down as mains. Indeed the only notable exception to the assortment of Asian food hits is Korean, though to be fair as much as I love kimchi (fermented, spicy cabbage which is far, far tastier than it sounds), I appreciate Korean cuisine hasn’t entered the public consciousness with quite the popularity that the rest of Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese food has.
With a penchant for weekend brunch, Tootoomoo was as good a place as any to try an unlimited brunch, available on Friday to Sunday with the Islington branch offering eight tables in a colourful interior. Be warned, the seating is rather cosy, though the plus side of small tables is you won’t have to reach far to attack your next dish of choice.
With a stream of helmeted deliverymen keeping the doors revolving, it is clear Tootoomoo is a hit locally with those who prefer to eat at home and with strains of Chinese being heard in the kitchen above the hisses of the cooking, Tootoomoo has a nice buzz.
On to the house rules. Rule1, you’re timed at either 1hour 30mins or 2hours, with a cost per time per person. Rule2, time starts when the order is processed. Rule3, you need to finish what you’ve ordered before ordering any more (be it food or drinks). And the fourth and final rule, last orders 20 minutes before your allocated or booked time slot. At the risk of sounding rather perfunctory, all the rules are rather sensible and keep food waste to a minimum. Ready? Set? Anything off the menu, go!
With a select menu, don’t forget this is a ‘best of’ menu not a ‘we’ll cook everything’ menu, my wife and I kicked off with the dim sum and sushi with a jug of mojito to accompany. While the mojito looked authentic, despite best attempts all the lime and mint remained firmly rooted at the bottom of the jug leading to a flavourless mix of rum, soda water and a lot of crushed ice; not an ideal start and under house rules, difficult to order anything else to drink with almost a full jug still on the table. Luckily the crime that was a poor cocktail was made up by the Tootootapas. The gyoza, vegetable spring rolls and crispy duck rolls were competent (even if the gyoza was slightly cold and not piping hot), the chicken satay was good with a wonderful peanut sauce and the salmon sashimi was very fresh. Cue completely empty plates and another look at the menu for round two…
Heading to the mains, my wife and I dove straight straight into the next round, deciding not to waste any time. The chicken Singapore noodles were suitably shocking yellow in colour and spicy, the Szechaun chilli beef wasn’t too spicy but had rather a wonderful kick while the Thai Green Curry was thick with good amounts of coconut milk. And that, as they say, was that. Literally. So much for pacing ourselves and so much for needing any food for the rest of the day. While the mains weren’t large, indeed they were spot on for an unlimited brunch, the food coma induced by the two courses was enough to see my wife and I through to the next day. This was definitely a case of our eyes being bigger than our stomachs.
Most of the food is good, some excellent, which given the variety of dishes is to be expected. The speed of service is very good (it helped my wife and I were the first people in the door – after the deliverymen of course), which hand in hand with the range of dishes felt like Tootoomoo was a made to order all you can eat buffet; accompanied by strains of Sade and soft Spanish jazz. Our visit lasted just over one hour, which saw us waste almost 30 minutes of eating time. As a couple who usually head for a full English with Bloody Marys and a coffee on Saturday mornings, Asian food was a welcome change to the routine, though next time I’ll stick with beer to wash down my noodles. Be warned, if you do fancy a spring roll or helping of curry for your next weekend wake me up, book ahead.
Enquiries: Tootoomoo, 278 St Paul’s Road, Islington, London N1 2LH / 0207 7046687 / www.tootoomoo.co.uk/