At first I thought Banana Tree was an Alan Yau restaurant. It had to be. The style of the menu, the atmosphere, the overfilled dining room so loud you can barely hear your boyfriend even on a Tuesday night at 8:45pm. It had to be. But nope, despite all the similarities, Banana Tree is a chain of Malaysian/Thai/Vietnamese-style canteen style restaurants headed by chef William Chow (which coincidentally rhymes with Yau. Scary…)
I had a £60 voucher to spend given to me by their in-house team – and trust me, £60 will get you VERY far in this restaurant. Three starters, two mains, rice and a bottle of wine to be exact.
Despite a couple misses, the food I’m happy to say was actually really good. The only thing I could fault is the presentation, which is why I’m not going to post many pictures. I don’t know if my camera was acting up or what, but the photographic evidence of our meal was not pretty. However, if you’re curious and don’t judge books by their covers, head to my set on Flickr.
Here’s the one that came out alright – Tamarind Crispy Fish with Thai Basil Glaze (£8.45):
Tasty, it was, too. So many cheaper East Asian restaurants rely on gelatinous gloop that serves as ‘glaze’. This was light and accented the fish perfectly, which incidentally, did stay crispy throughout the meal.
We also really liked the Char Grilled Blackened Chili Pork (£8.25). It was an incredible deal considering the amount of meat on the plate. It was blackened, but not burned, something I’ve never been able to achieve at home.
The Spiced Lamb Lettuce Wraps (£5.85) were quite lovely and aromatic. If there’s one thing Banana Tree isn’t afraid of, it’s spice. Not so much hot spice, but full and flavourful accents of clove and star anise that this style of food is built upon.
The only misses of the night were on the starter/nibble side. I found the Sweet Corn Cakes (£3.25) and the Vietnamese Spring Rolls (£4.25) way too oily – like they’d been sitting in the fryer for the length of the bible.
Overall, though, a great experience. Service was pleasant and snappy. Most of the staff looked like they were actually having a good time, which always bodes well. Happy staff = happy service = happy customers. I’ll be back.
Disclosure: As above, I was given a £60 voucher to try out Banana Tree. I had a completely anonymous dining experience, typical of any off-the street patron. Again, I can’t say how glad I am that PRs and restaurants are finally offering bloggers anonymity. It’s fantastic.