Review: Yumn Boxpark, Croydon
This smart and bustling off-shoot from the Yumn Brasserie in Croydon’s Restaurant Quarter is a cut above the usual Boxpark fare – a classy cocktail joint with far better food than it could get away with!
This may sound like damning with faint praise, but that’s not the intention. For one, Boxpark’s various locations play host to some decent food outlets. We love Chilango, Meatliquor (back in our carnivore days) and What The Pitta!, but all are very much of the dirty-good fast-food variety.
What you might not expect from a Boxpark restaurant is a proper ‘old-fashioned’, sit-down, three-courses-and-a-bottle-of-wine place. And if you found yourself in one – at Yumn, say – you might expect to get overpriced cocktails, and tiny plates of food. No, nein, niet!
Yumn is a revelation. First off, it’s a big old unit – four units in fact – and feels nothing like a combination of shipping containers. The space is plush and enticing, just what you need on a wet and windy February evening.
A cocktail seems like a perfectly civilised way to start, and the menu is extensive – in fact, Yumn feels like a restaurant that accidentally became a cocktail bar, with the food unfairly (more on this to come) relegated to second billing. Sure enough, as I sip a fortifying Zacapa Old Fashioned – rum, chocolate bitters and pineapple – it’s noticeable that most of the fellow ‘diners’ are in fact focusing mostly ‘drinkers’, perhaps dabbling with a sharing platter.
Yumn Boxpark Director Faisal Hussin tells me that a forthcoming menu change will reflect this trend, reorienting towards tapas-style variations on the current food offering to compliment the clearly popular cocktails. It seems to make sense, but it’s hard not to feel sad that such good food isn’t getting the appreciation it surely deserves.
And so, to that food: to start, the Salt and Pepper Calamari is nicely cooked – simple finger food done well – but is upstaged by the additional herb tempura: crisp, soft, light, and somehow managing to taste healthy despite their recent visit to hot oil. And a plate of Halloumi Fries – you can’t go wrong with halloumi fries! – is elevated by a spicy harissa salsa which is a perfect foil for the salty cheese.
A main course of Herb Crushed Hake is the very stuff of fishy dreams – an overly picky eater might fixate on a slightly uneven crumb (such that the first mouthful was a little crumb-heavy), but this is a hefty chunk o’ fish, a generous, meaty portion atop a rib-sticking pile of buttery crushed potatoes. The accompanying lemon caper sauce cuts through the butter perfectly, though perhaps there’s a texture missing – the crunch of a pine-nut perhaps. This is picky stuff though – the overwhelming impression is of a hearty, flavoursome plate of food.
And to finish, there is an Apple Tarte Tatin, which evokes memories of those delightfully soporific school puddings but with a finesse that never made its way to the menu in my school days! Perhaps the apple is a little over cooked, but who wants to chew at this point in the evening? In any case, there’s the sticky, chewy, crispy pastry to get your teeth into! It’s all just the right side of over-caramelised (i.e. perfection), and topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream that only wants for maybe a smidgen more cinnamon.
There’s a contentedness that settles and the end of a meal like this – a feeling of an appetite more than appropriately sated. The train home may beckon, but the warmth of Yumn grips you tightly. Thankfully, there are plenty of cocktails to keep you supping and putting off a return to the wet and wild outdoors. I recommend the Skull & Bones (Tiki), a boozy holiday in a drink that brings together Mount Gay rum, apricot brandy liqueur, orgeat syrup, pineapple and lime juice. What train home?