The term ‘east meets west ‘ is bantered about a lot, but the Mango Tree restaurant in London actually delivers this effortlessly. Traditional Thai cuisine blends comfortably with Belgravia’s chic and modern culture.
If you’re used to devouring noodles inside a restaurant filled with plants, Buddha statues, and eastern decor then prepare for a radical change. Instead, say hello to super stylish furniture and bare white walls that standout with the help of creative colourful lighting and wooden decor. It’s quite minimal compared to the usual Thai dinning experience. There are hints of its Thai heritage with the occasional orchids and art work dotted sparingly near windows. But this restaurant exudes modern western style.
One of the first things you’ll spot is the ultra stylish bar near the entrance. The area is sectioned off from the main dinning hall with funky blue lights and comfy yet stylish seating. It’s a great place to sit and chat with your chums before a meal or even sip cocktails on a Friday night before hitting a club.
As well as the usual spirits and wines, the bar specialises in traditional Thai cocktails and has a good variety of virgin cocktails. The virgin mojito is refreshing without being too tart and the strawberry garden cocktail is fruity without being sickly.
The warm atmosphere of the restaurant in helped by the welcoming and knowledgable staff. My waiter Daniel was full of helpful suggestions on which drink, rice and sauce would go best with each meal. The background music also creates an intimate feel – it’s loud enough that you cannot hear other people’s conversations but mellow enough that it won’t disturb your meal.
If variety is the spice of life then Mango Tree is like a red-hot chilli because diners can pick from a lot of different menus. Newbies to Thai food will appreciate the Ian Pengelley Selection menu that features dishes handpicked by the chef. It’s so comprehensive that it even suggests which drink to have with each meal. If you know your chicken satay from your panang curry then just stick to the a la carte menu.
When I was a teenager I dabbled with the idea of becoming a vegetarian but found eating out was a nightmare because of the limited choice on offer. However, if you don’t eat meat then the kitchen also has a vegetarian menu to ensure you too can enjoy a lovely meal without feeling left out.
First impressions count and the starters cooked up by the kitchen are certainly impressive. You can sip soups, guzzle noodles or even munch on grilled meats and salads. If you’re a little indecisive and want to try a bit of everything then you can’t go wrong with the Mango Tree platter which includes chicken satay, prawn spring rolls, golden minced chicken purse and Thai fish cakes. These are served with sweet chilli sauce, plum sauce and satay peanut sauce which is creamy, textured and utterly delicious.
For fish lovers there is also a seafood version which is jam-packed with fresh king prawns in spicy tom yum sauce, grilled king scallop with garlic butter sauce, soft-shell crab tempura and mixed seafood satay. For anyone who loves salad, but with a bit of substance, then I would recommend the yum nuer, which contains sirloin beef slices cooked to your liking, served with cherry tomatoes and a lime and chilli dressing.
When it comes to the mains and curries, I’d recommend the panang, which is a rich red curry with coconut milk and sweet basil leaves. It is served with either corn-fed chicken, beef or prawns. I opted for the beef which had a melt in your mouth quality – perfection. The sauce was mild and aromatic – a good option if you love flavours but can’t really withstand a lot of chillies.
Although the waiters recommend that the curry works well with plain rice, I really enjoyed eating it with the pineapple rice which is stuffed with a mix of sweet and salty delights such as pineapples, raisins, prawns and chicken. It sounds like an odd combination on paper but in reality it really works – creating an unforgettable explosion in the mouth. And as with all the dishes, the presentation of the pineapple rice is amazing as it’s plated up in an actual pineapple – making it a feast for the eyes as well as the belly!
For diners who like a bit of kick to their meal, then I would recommend the gaeng kiew wan nuer wagyu which is a grilled marinated sirloin of wagyu beef, placed on a bed of grilled aubergine and topped with a very rich and aromatic green curry sauce. It is one of the priciest things on the menu at £45, but you get what you pay for. The sauce is spicy but the beef is the piece de resistance. It’s so super soft that you can slice through it with an ordinary table knife.
Whenever I eat out, I’ve noticed a really strange occurrence. It doesn’t matter how stuffed I am from a main meal, my stomach always has a secret trap door that allows me to devour dessert. And if like me, you always crave something sweet at the end of your meal, then the dessert menu will not disappoint. If you want an authentic Thai treat then opt for kow niew mamuang which features honey mango with sticky rice and coconut milk. But for chocolate lovers, you can’t go wrong with the chocolate cake which is a rich, dark chocolate fondant with a melted chocolate core, dusted with fine sugar and served with vanilla-pandan ice cream.
The chocolate cake is made fresh when you order and takes about 15 minutes so it’s worth considering that if you’re in a rush. I’d also recommend the Sang Ka Ya Mamuang, which is a mango creme brulee served with pistachio biscotti. Once you crack the crunchy top, the creamy and fruity flavours of the mango are a light and refreshing way to end a heavy but delicious meal.
Mango Tree, at 46 Grosvenor Pl, London, SW1X 7EQ. Log on www.mangotree.org.uk or call 020 7823 1888.