Cruising on to 21

That's how it is every year, right in the middle of exam season, right when everyone has their heads buried in their books and in a frenzy with last minute revision - that's when our (Sapna's and mine) birthdays come around. This time, house-hunting, storage sorting and just the whole anticipation of home has seemed to compound the exam season effect so we found ourselves celebrating our birthdays in a kind of roller-coaster, head-in-the-clouds sort of way.

We consulted the all-knowing crystal ball of restaurants, Toptable, and stumbled upon Cruse9, a rather fancy restaurant (yes, it does seem to be the trend this year) just a short bus ride away from where we live. Finding a place with a promotion on a Friday night wasn't as easy as we thought it would be so we were delighted that Cruse9 had special deals on their 3-course and 2-course menus even on Friday nights.

62-63 Halliford Street,
London, N1 3HF
Tel: 020 7354 8099

The rain was a slight dampener to our spirits as we huddled under little umbrellas and quickly made our way to the restaurant, all the while hoping that we wouldn't get splashed at by passing vehicles. Once we got settled in, we wasted no time in picking out our dishes with most of us going for the 3-course deal.

Spicy lemon fish cakes with crispy peppery roquette and chilli jam. I wasn't sure what to expect with this. Say "fish cakes" and the only thing that comes to mind are those thin slices of processed fish in curry mee and noodle soups. These fish cakes were actually fish patties with lemon and spices, giving the whole dish a Thai feel.

For the main course, the duck and pork were the popular choices, though there were a few steaks and fish fillets thrown into the mix.

Juicy pork tenderloin, stuffed with apricots and spices, served with caramelized bananas and coconut risotto. I pretty much picked (what I thought was) the most unusual combination for a main course. Perhaps it is the fact that you don't usually get fruits in savoury dishes in Asian cuisine that made this jump out at me. The pork was very tender and had a hint of sweetness in every bite thanks to the apricots and spices while the risotto was quite like a creamier version of nasi lemak.

Boon Seong's assiette of duck. Duck magret, stuffed leg and seared foie gras served on caramelised apples with calvados and a white port sauce. Like the pork, the duck was very tender and had just the right amount of that distinct duck flavour. They seem to like complementing their meat with caramelised fruits and I must say that they do go quite well.

The banoffee pie was brought in to replace the ice cream desserts on the menu as they were having some problems with the freezer - and good thing, too. It came down to deciding between this and the chocolate fondant (pictured below) and I couldn't have made a better choice. "It's a bigger portion" pretty much sealed the deal. I've never had a banoffee pie quite like this one before - you just want to take your time to savour each and every bite, everything from the biscuit base to the generous helping of toffee sauce.

Hot chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream and white chocolate chip cookie, except that the vanilla ice cream was replaced by custard that night. It was one of those comforting chocolate treats that on any other occasion would have been a nice end to the evening but this time paled in comparison to the banoffee pie.

The passionfruit cheesecake that almost didn't make it to the table. This was right on top with the banoffee pie. I like cheesecakes that have a bit of a zing to it as it balances out the richness of the cheese (which after a big meal could be a bit too much to handle). The passionfruit gave the cheesecake a light, fresh flavour and left me wondering why I've never had passionfruit cheesecake before this.

The best part of the night though, was the fact that we could all take a breather and forget about everything else for awhile. After the initial talk of exams, rent, letting agents and everything in between, we caught up with people who would have otherwise been locked away in their rooms or self-banished to the library, traded gossip and talked about silly things. The thing about growing up is that along with the freedom and independence comes a whole load of new responsibilities and I think that night we celebrated being right in between childhood and adulthood - a pretty good place to be, I must say.

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