"Thai food with plenty of zing"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
The first thing that becomes apparent when you step into Mango Tree is that it’s hugely popular. The previous time I ate here was on a Saturday night, and the 160-cover dining room was packed. It’s the same story tonight and it’s a Wednesday, and once again it’s bordering on uncomfortably noisy.
Ian Pengelley has been corporate head chef since 2010; he’s also head chef of the opulent Gilgamesh, and previously worked at the acclaimed E&O in Notting Hill. At Mango Tree he’s in charge of the presentation of the dishes as well as creating new menus, training chefs, running masterclasses and speaking to the media.
He’s obviously a busy man, but it’s unsurprising given that his knowledge of Asian cuisine is first-rate. Here he sprinkles his magic on a special selection of dishes like soft shell crab tempura, lamb shank in massaman curry and wagyu beef with grilled aubergine and green curry sauce. The grilled seabass wrapped in banana leaf (pla plow) is beautifully moist, peppery and has hints of lemongrass. A starter of lobster tempura (goong mung korn) comes with a sauce that tastes like a spicy ketchup, and there's plenty of sliced cucumber on the plate to cool the palate. However the crispy batter and tender lobster meat is pleasant, but compared to some of the other dishes it’s not particularly interesting.
Elsewhere on the menu another starter, the green papaya salad (som tum goong sod), has heaps of refreshing papaya, tomato and peanuts; chicken and beef satay on skewers have a smear of garlic butter and and tender meat, in particular the beef, while the peanut sauce is on the side. Even better is the tom yum goong soup, a fantastic broth that despite its fieriness doesn’t let spice overshadow the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, and large juicy shrimps and shimeji mushrooms make this all the more enjoyable.
Roasted corn-fed poussin (gai yang) is presented in quarters, and has been soaked in a marinade of coconut, staple ingredient lemongrass, galangal, turmeric and lime leaves, all of which can be clearly tasted in the crispy skin of this lovely bird.
There are several very filling desserts to choose from; the banana and coconut pudding (guay ob ma prow sod) is a little like a thick pancake that’s been layered into strips with the fruit, covered in caramel sauce. There’s a dollop of banana ice cream which is welcome for its lack of sweetness, balancing out the gloopiness of the rest of the pud. You can also choose your own flavour of ice creams for a lighter option, we try lavender and rose petal, wonderfully fragrant, and coconut ice cream, with some nice coconut sticky rice at the bottom.
There is a crowd-pleasing wine and cocktail list – we drink a strong, classic gin martini, a concoction called “Love Ocean” made with vodka, lychee and passion fruit juice, and sweet Monbazillac wine with dessert. The drinks are flowing around us too, as this is a destination restaurant that local workers and out of towners alike flock to for a night out, and not just for a bite to eat. The downside is that the dining room lacks intimacy, but the food has enough zing to compensate for this small inconvenience.
Leila reviewed The Mango Tree on Fri 08 Feb 2013