The Mango Tree Thai restaurant is a Belgravia institution and it’s been that way since 2001. It’s part of the Asian company ‘Coca’. The Mango Tree became their flagship Thai restaurant in Europe and has won numerous awards, and your first visit will show you the reason for those gongs and plaudits.
The restaurant has a corner plot, close to Buckingham Palace. It has a welcoming bar with a casual seating area offering low upholstered cubes and tables, as well as striking high stools in teak designed for those a lot younger than this journalist. We arrived early so settled to enjoy a cocktail or two – a good selection of exotic and fruity concoctions. I chose a Scandia Berry which was a dangerously delicious blend of Cape North vodka, Gabriel Boudier Liqueur de Framboises, fresh raspberry and lime juice. Our table was soon ready so I was mercifully spared the probable temptation of overindulgence in alcoholic thirst-quenchers.
The main restaurant is feng-shui-designed, although the untutored guest will likely be unaware of the niceties of that philosophy. It does strike one as being a contemporary and airy space with teak-clad walls, tall, sophisticated floral displays and dark-wood tables resplendent with silver chargers and gold napkin holders and linen. The quiet efficiency of the waiting staff makes one feel rather special and that’s a rare sensation in a bustling London restaurant. We were seated by a window overlooking a very typical city scene of black taxis, red buses and grey skies, but we were in reality en route to Bankok.
Winner of the Thai Chef of the Year 2003 award in the Fusion category, the Mango Tree is now more prized for its authentic Thai dishes from each of the four main culinary regions: creamy, mild dishes from the North of the country, spicy and vibrant food from the East, cooking influenced by the Chinese tradition of the Central region, and hot, pungent foods from the South. The chef chooses fresh local ingredients wherever possible.
We visited on a cold wet Wednesday evening but Mango Tree was soon full. The waiter told us that their ‘50% off à la carte’ offer had proved an amazing success. There were evidently plenty of regulars who return for the quality meal bargain deal. There is a Vegetarian and Vegan menu here to give universal appeal to the restaurant.
Tom Ka Goong – spicy prawn soup with coconut milk – was the first of our starters. I am not an habitual soup eater at restaurants, although it’s a favourite from my own kitchen during our eight months of winter. This one has converted me to Thai soups with their unique taste notes and aesthetic appeal. Pale and interesting with plenty of plump seafood, the surface speckled with droplets of red chilli oil.
Chicken served with Satay peanut sauce had been recommended and it was easy to see why this is so popular. The chicken was chunky and cooked to just-past-pink succulence. The peanut sauce was moreish. In future I would be a culinary philistine and hang on to the remainder of this, to enjoy over rice with the main dishes – possibly not a traditional combination, but I hated to see the still half-full bowl of that sauce return to the kitchen.
Massaman Gae – Massaman curry with lamb shank – should be a signature dish. The gravy was rich and the meat was memorable. Yes, we truly did remove it from the bone with a spoon. This had the depth of flavour associated only with slow-cooked rich meats. It might not sway a vegetarian from their chosen dietary path but it will turn the head of any carnivore.
Pad Thai is ubiquitous on Thai menus. It would seem to be a simple dish to prepare and serve but it is seldom appetising and often with a consistency that obliges the diner to cut a solid wedge. Both my guest and I agreed that the high-quality Mango Tree version is outstanding with regard to texture and quantity of the good stuff garnishing the noodles. Pad Thai Goong Lai Yai – Stir fried Thai rice noodles with tiger prawns in house spicy sauce served with fresh Chinese chives, peanuts and bean sprouts – will be a must-try for aficionados of the genre.
Kow Niew Mamuang – honey mango served with coconut milk and sticky rice – is a hearty dessert with delicate flavour. The short-grain rice is layered with the sunny-coloured and sweet fruit. It’s a warm ramekin to linger over rather than to rush.
My guest ordered the Guay Ob Ma Prow Sod – layered caramelised banana and coconut pudding with caramel sauce and banana ice cream – which might not be the most attractive dessert but it does have full-on banana flavour, and the ice cream is a winner on its own.
I have recently visited Awana which is the Malaysian sister restaurant to Mango Tree. It’s a leader of that particular ethnic cuisine, and I would venture to suggest that Mango Tree might well be a contender for a similar accolade for Thai food in London. It has understated charm and offers great value for money even at full price. I hope to return to sample their afternoon tea in the near future.
Mon – Wed: 12:00pm – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 11:00pm
Thu, Fri, Sat: 12:00pm – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 11:30pm
Sun: 12:00pm – 3:00pm, 6:00pm – 10:30pm
Mango Tree Thai Restaurant
46 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7EQ
Telephone: 020 7823 1888
Fax: 020 7838 9275
Visit Mango Tree here
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018