Tel : 020 7823 1888 | www.mangotree.org.uk
It’s a big space is Mango Tree but one that always seems to be full, an indication of the consistent pulling power this restaurant has. The restaurant seems particularly popular with young TV actors, sports stars, divas and rappers. Prada handbags are in evidence, as are bare shoulders and WAG tans. It all adds a nice bit of glamour to an evening.
The Thais themselves are such a lovely people, with exquisite manners and the welcome at Mango Tree reflects this. The bar is a popular stop en route to a dining room which was once the reception area of ill-fated Enron, but we made straight for our table. The menu is not so large as to be daunting and the £40 tasting menu would be an easy way to get the best of Executive Chef Mark Read’s cooking, but we had a good idea of what we wanted – a selection of starters of mixed meat satays, fresh prawns steamed in tom yum sauce with chilli and garlic and some vegetable spring rolls with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce.
Service, despite some rumours to the contrary, seemed pretty swift from waiters wearing headsets (they need the technology to stay in touch with Mission Control) and our table filled up quickly with dishes. I should point out, as the wife insists, that our table next to the window was cold; the air con breeze came down the glass and howled around us. It didn’t bother me too much but then I had a jacket on, those bare-shouldered ladies should beware of goose bumps however.
The satays were just right, it’s too easy for restaurants to serve this street food over-done, especially when its chicken or pork, but these were nicely moist and the beef cooked rare to medium. The grill had bestowed a particularly fine smoky taste while the satay sauce was packed full of peanut taste, but without the cloying sweetness you get from a packet. The prawns were really superb, extremely fresh and still slightly translucent they had been semi-undressed to make them easier to eat and to let the sauce bathe them. Apparently they are flown in specially and bring only hand luggage so they can get through immigration quicker. The spring rolls again were well cooked so that they weren’t the usual explosive bombs of friable filo and had crisp contents that were clean and free of tongue-scalding oil.
And so to mains. Stir-fried sirloin beef fillet with ginger, garlic and spicy soy sauce had serious hunks of quality fillet, each piece precisely pink in the centre. I like my ginger in big slices and that’s how they serve it here, ribbons of ginger draped around and over the beef and coated with the sauce. Really quite simple just a few well-balanced flavours and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Pad Thai is a classic of course, almost a cliché, but that’s no reason to dismiss it. Things become popular because they’re good, not the other way around. This one upped the ante with the addition of some big tiger prawns in with the rice noodles, the ‘house spicy sauce’ Chinese chives, peanuts and bean sprouts. It was a bit filling and we began to regret pigging on the prawn crackers earlier and the arrival of the chicken curry gave us further cause for concern. Nice to see the proper Thai pea aubergines in there though and the fillet chicken (corn fed the menu said) was moist and packed with flavour. The green curry sauce was chili hot enough to make you careful, but not so much as to make you fear the worst later.
The only complaint I’d make about some of these dishes is that they had cooled down a fair bit en route from the underground kitchen. Maybe it’s time for the return of that old classic the candle-powered dish warmer on the table? As we slowed down our consumption speed, so the dishes got colder which was both a shame and a bit of a waste.
Desserts were a mixed selection for two. We liked the layered caramelised banana and coconut pudding with caramel sauce and banana ice a lot, but the steamed dark chocolate pudding with Cotswold clotted cream was too much for already over-stretched stomachs. Honey mango served with coconut milk and sticky rice was easier and lighter.
It’s rare to find a restaurant that is still a destination and eating at Mango Tree makes you feel a little special, a little privileged and, as we found out, more than a little full. A good place to go for that once in a while special treat.