It’s the topic that I love to talk about. Wherever I am, you are generally guaranteed that whatever topic I start with it will eventually gravitate towards a discussion about food. I will talk about it before I eat, during eating and even once my tummy is full much to the amusement of my friends. Yes, I AM obsessed. So to pander to my obsession as you will be well aware by now I review restaurants. It’s great to try new dishes and to get recipe inspiration too.
Recently I went along to a restaurant called Banana Tree in Soho during a shopping trip. Now these guys have some of my favourite types of cuisine and also some I have yet to try. The staff were very friendly and inviting. The dishes included foods from Indochina (Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Peninsula of Malaysia & Singapore).
Our server Matilda, a wonderful lady was truly passionate about the food, the flavours, the freshness of the dishes on the menu she was fabulous. Matilda had tried all the dishes that she could – she is vegan herself so of course couldn’t try everything. There is a separate vegetarian menu too if required.
Having walked a fair amount we were pretty thirsty and keen to begin our meal adventure with some drinks. A sparkling water for me, my friend opted for one of the raw juices on the menu: Fruit Mix Twist apple, orange and passion fruit with a twist of crushed mint. This was delicious and was clearly made from freshly pressed fruit from the flavour and was extremely refreshing, it wasn’t packed with ice so you had plenty of the juice in there and also it was not watered down either something that I have noticed some restaurants like to do.
Kajang Grilled Satay
This is made using an Authentic recipe from the town of Kerang in Malaysia. These barbecued sticks are served with steamed palm leaf rice, cucumber, mixed pickle and a secret recipe peanut sauce.
A super popular dish for obvious reasons. The is really tasty, the marinated and barbecued chicken is flavourful on its own, perfectly cooked and the gorgeous satay sauce brings the most delicious peanut flavour, plus the sauce wasn’t oily. The various components of the dish combined well, the rice was nice and sticky and was great for soaking up the satay sauce as you don’t want any of that great flavour being wasted. The pickle brought with it a lovely tangy contrast.
Fresh Indo Wraps
Mekong Pulled Duck Spring Rolls
Light fresh and aromatic starters for you to wrap up! Served with Batavia lettuce, Vietnamese pickle, fresh herbs and delicious Nuoc Cham dipping sauce.
If I had to sum this dish up in 3 words I would say fresh, delicious and flavourful. The first thing that you notice is the freshness of the ingredients, the herbs really do add a wonderful layer to the flavour and the sauce gives it a gorgeous kick. The crunch from the duck spring rolls works well with the crunch from the fresh ingredients and all combine beautifully. This was so tasty, so fresh tasting and so fabulous that I was in heaven. I could have simply gone in and had a meal of a few portions of this and left over the moon. I was so absorbed in the experience of eating these that my pen and paper were set aside as I didn’t want them distracting me from enjoying the dish. I loved these so much I plan to make my own variation of the dish at home.
The lychee mojito which you can see in the above picture had a mix of lychee wine and juice with rum, fresh mint leaves and lime juice. Not only was it lovely and sweet it was also very easy to drink and very refreshing. The sweetness went well with the freshness of the mint and the tangyness of the lime.
Now before I go onto the topic of the mains something that you all must know about when visiting this restaurant is the combos. There are two different types of combo available and these options guarantee a meal that will not only be tasty but also rather filling. There is a House Combo and a Grill Combo, both are slightly different and add an additional charge to the meal but that way you add extra items and it really is worth doing. The House Combo (+£3.95) comes with an Indo house salad with crushed nuts, sweetcorn cakes, Indo cracker and aromatic spiced rice. The Grill Combo (+£4.95) comes with aromatic spiced rice, papaya salad with crushed nuts and an Indo cracker.
The aromas wafted over from the mains as Matilda approached and our mouths couldn’t help water continuously whilst I took my pictures. It was a battle not to set the camera aside and dive straight in.
Chargrilled Meat – Blackened Chilli Pork (Grill Combo option)
Slices of leg of pork char grilled in aromatic dark soy, palm sugar, chilli, garlic and ground spices and served with chilli salsa.
The meat was rich in flavour and tender. This was a lovely vibrant dish and a great size portion. The additions were welcome here and somehow my friend managed to polish off the lot. I still don’t know how she managed it all. This dish had the grill combo which went perfectly. The flavours added a freshness to the dish and we liked that there was a generous sprinkling of the nuts on the salad. This was served with a wedge of lime which went well although the dish already had so much flavour you might not feel you need it – it all comes down to personal preference. For me it worked either way.
Tamarind Spicy Aubergine
Sweet and tangy with tamarind, peppers, carrots, spicy bean paste, garlic and ginger.
This was a gorgeous dish. I love aubergine and the mix of spices it had been combined with worked tremendously well. This was thankfully for me not quite as heavy as the meat dish but both were equally delicious in flavour. Again the grill combo was included for which I was grateful as the papaya and other ingredients from the salad worked well. The sweet and savoury elements of this dish worked perfectly. I loved the mix of spices used in the rice and the slight kick it gave. The whole dish packs a punch of flavours that will delight most taste buds. Of course my track history with finishing meals is as we know not the best. This was really filling and I did struggle but I took it slowly and thankfully didn’t leave too much – I needed to make sure I had room for dessert as everything had been wonderful so far I couldn’t bare not to try that too.
Chocolate Fondant Dessert with Coconut Ice Cream and Passion Fruit
This rich and chocolatey dessert is a must for chocolate lovers especially those that love bounty (a [popular chocolate with coconut centre) I guarantee you will be in heaven. This is such a wonderful dessert combining flavours that work well and the addition of the passion fruit is genius as it adds a touch of tang and makes the dessert that bit more exciting and tropical. You simply must try this.
Just a note for those that visit that like spice, there is a chilli sauce that they make inhouse which is similar to sriracha sauce (those that love hot food will know what this is), you need to try this – just ask for some hot sauce with your meal.
The portion sizes were all good for all three courses, everything was full of flavor and we were ready for a nap when we finished. Of course when you eat a big meal it is best to walk it off which we did although I could have easily stayed for a few more cocktails, the Pina Coladas were lovely!! Happy hour is Sun-Thu 12pm – 7pm & 9:30pm till close and Fri – Sat 12pm – 7pm & 10:30pm till close ad they do 2 for 1 on a range of delicious cocktails, handy as you will want to try them all!
This is a great restaurant with a great range of exciting meals. I believe there are 9 sites located in London, Oxford and Milton Keynes. If you are near one or will be travelling near one make sure you visit.
Now you will love me for this – they take tastecard so if you have one then don’t forget to prebook and then head down and enjoy two for one on their fabulous dishes!!! I know I will be making full use of mine.
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Which is your favourite food Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, Indonesian Malaysian or Singaporean?