i love me some pan-asian grub right, so when i found myself invited for dinner in one of the capital's most well-reviewed thai restaurants, in one of the most expensive neighbourhoods, i was hardly in a position to say no. in fact - as milly quite rightly put it recently: "when a restaurant's mentioned in a book by queen rowling herself, you know it's gotta be good." (apparently it features in 'the silkworm' by madam rowling under her pen name, robert galbraith) now, i'm not a fan of rowling's work, but i am a fan of her in general so i challenged milly's statement instantly because i knew that if the food coming out of mango tree's sister restaurant chi kitchen was anything to go by, then the dishes at mango tree itself would already be better than just "good". sorry mils.
signature cocktails from £9.00
the cocktails were the first thing to not disappoint. we were a little early for our reservation, so made our way to the opulent bar until it was time to take a seat. first things first: the bar is stocked, and the cocktail menu is extensive. i always ask the bartenders what their favourite is to make - or if there's a house special, to make it easier for me to make a decision, but our barman didn't seem very sure so i just went for a hibiscus martini. it was utterly delicious, and smoother than ben's lychee number (that i forget the name of) which was really sweet and fruity, but came served in a bowl of ice. a nice touch, and a great way to kick off a meal.
mango tree mixed satay £15.50
fact: chicken satay is probably one of my all-time favourite meals. it's one of the first sauces i learned to make from scratch, and it's an easy answer to the "what's for dinner?" dilemma, so when i found the mixed satay dish placed in front of me i let out a mini *squeee*. with servings of both chicken and king prawns marinated and skewered, they were ready to dip in the rich and sweet peanut sauce i could smell from my seat. it was spicy without being too hot, and came with a second dipping sauce - a thai sweet vinegar that tasted a lot of apples - but could have been the celery. either way, the dipping sauces mixed together were a taste sensation, and i kid you not: i dreamt about the dish that night, and have been eating homemade satay every night since.
goong ten £9.50
put king prawns in front of me, and i'm a happy girl. de-shell it, marinate it in a tom yum sauce and serve it up with a chilli and garlic dipping sauce and i will be in prawny heaven. crunchy on the outside but with the white meat cooked so it was tender and soft to the bite, this was a tasty follow up to the satay starter. my only gripe: not enough pieces. there were three prawns for the two of us, meaning we totally fought over the last one, and eventually split it. it's just as well there was a loooot more food coming, otherwise fighting over the last tasty prawn might have been a low-point.
gai yang jeerapan £8.25
i wasn't sure i'd like this, as on paper it didn't really sound very appealing. mainly because i'm not a fan of chicken thigh, but as it was marinated in black pepper, garlic and coriander and then char-grilled, it had a lovely, crunchy skin about it that made me literally forget it was the bird's brown meat. the sweet chilli dipping sauce was nothing special, which was a blessing as there was more satay sauce left over that definitely did the trick for this starter too. my recommendation here would be order the dish, but switch up the sauce. sweet chilli is dime a dozen, but a tasty satay can go a long way.
talay pad cha £19.95
this bowl-plated dish wasn't much to look at - other than a big bowl of seafood with a few green beans and red peppers, but once a chunk of squid was in my mouth, it was a whole 'nother story. spiiiiiiicy, is the first word that comes to mind, thanks to the combo of fresh chilli, garlic, thai herbs, peppercorns (yeowch!) and kachai root (chinese ginger) that the perfectly-cooked seafood was marinated and served in, probably. we definitely fought over this one, except his palette is a lot less sensitive than mine and eventually i had to quit out of concern for my taste buds. good god though, this restaurant served some of the best seafood dishes i've had in a long time.
gaeng phed ped yang pon lai mai £19.95
this dish really surpassed all expectations because, if i had read it on a menu, i don't think i would have ordered it - even though it comes served in a freaken pineapple. a pineapple! best use of fruit for a vessel award goes to this dish, hands down. it was the mixture of roast duck, grapes, cherry tomatoes and fresh pineapple that would have put me off, because that just doesn't sound very appealing. i do love a red curry though, and this dish this was a delightful surprise; actually, i think it was probably my favourite of all the dishes. the duck was perfect. and, there were crunchy bits of meat dotted around the top of the curry too, which were an extra special touch because, another fact: i like my food overcooked. and another fact: grapes are really goddamn nice in a curry.
pad thai goong gai £15.50
what's not to like about pad thai - it's a classic dish. this one came a bit deconstructed though, with a fancy "egg net" encasing the main goods in the centre of the plate, and the "extras" like the peanuts, bean sprouts and chilli all piled up around the outside. i guess the idea was to build your own meal, but to be honest, i was so damn full that i went straight for the king prawns and thai noodles that had been cooked through the homemade sauce because that's real the flavour lived. the egg net was pretty cool - and crunchy (i really like crunchy food) so i made an extra effort to eat as much of that as i could too, before admitting defeat... and waiting for dessert.
dessert selection from £6.50
by this point we were so utterly full that there was no way we thought we could eat dessert, and considered actually not ordering any. but, when the choice is taken away from you by a waiter who insists on bringing you some tasters to share, you go with it! we had a triple chocolate layer cake, a banana and toffee sponge, a pistachio ice cream thing, and my personal fave: coffee cheesecake. i do love me a good bakes cheesecake, and this one did not disappoint. ben had himself an espresso to wash it all down, while i had a mouthful of everything to say i did, decided which ones i liked (all but the chocolate one), and then decided i needed to lay horizontal for a bit to let it all digest. the desserts weren't totally thai in my mind, but they were all slightly "different", which made up for that fact.
now, considering the restaurant is sat in belgravia and surrounded by some of london's most expensive shops and restaurants, the dishes are actually quite affordable. especially if you don't blow out and order everything like we did. with big servings and filling mains costing less than £20 and starters for as little as £10, there's really nothing stopping you from having a delicious meal at a sensible price. or, there's the pre-theatre offer of two courses for £17.95 or three for £20.95, which is incredible, considering what's on the menu. i'll definitely be back, so.. will i see you there?
*we were guests of mango tree's, but all thoughts are mine.