A while back now I took my friend Craig to Mango Tree for a fancy pants Thai meal.
The Mango Tree in Belgravia actually happens to be the venue of Michael’s & my first ever “proper” date as girlfriend & boyfriend, and despite the fact that we got into such a heated argument about whether mother’s should stop working after they’ve had a baby (don’t worry, over the course of our relationship both our views changed somewhat) that we let our food go cold, it’s actually an evening and restaurant that I recall very fondly, so I was more than happy to accept their kind invitation 4 years on to return for a Take II.
Seeing as Thailand is my favourite country in the world, with one of the main reasons being that I’m in love with the food, Mango Tree was naturally off to a good start.
The dining room is spacious & symmetrical, and supposedly has good feng-shui to enhance its customers dining experience.
Mango Tree serves genuine Thai dishes from each of the four main culinary regions: rich & mild dishes from the north, spicy food from the east, mild dishes influenced by the Chinese cooking style from the central region, and hot & spicy food from the south.
Craig & I arrived a little before our reservation and were shown to the bar for a pre-dinner aperitif, with me opting for a cosmopolitan (£9.00) and him a Tanqueray G&T (£9.50). Drinks and service were spot on, but I must admit that I found the decor of the bar a little out of keeping with the authentic vibe of the main restaurant, with the blue LED backlighting a little more Patong than Belgravia.
That said, I found little to no fault with the remainder of our evening so will breeze past their choice of lights.
Special mention goes to Boyd, our server, who was an absolute gem from start to finish.
Once seated, we popped a bottle of Louis Roederer champagne (£60.00) and got to work on our starters.
In the interests of sampling as much variety as possible, we ordered the Mango Tree platter, offering up chicken satay, King prawn spring rolls, duck spring rolls and Thai fish cakes, all served with peanut, sweet chilli and plum sauces (12.95 pp).
The selection definitely offered some highs & lows. We were both big fans of the fish cakes and duck spring rolls, but the chicken satay was on the dry side (which was particularly heart breaking for me) and the King prawn spring rolls didn’t contain much identifiable prawn, with Craig likening it to garlic bread (more for appearance than taste). The sauces, however (and we all know that I am the sauce QUEEN), were absolutely spot on, and were most certainly not out of your average pre-bought jar.
Our other starters to share were “kor moo yang”, or barbecued pork, sliced and served with cucumber and a traditional homemade sweet & spicy nam jim jaew sauce (£8.95).
The dish had so much potential with the perfect marriage of flavours and such a tasty, refreshing dipping sauce, but I felt the pork was slightly overdone.
Finally we tried the “som tum”, a green papaya salad with prawns, cherry tomatoes, snake beans, peanuts, dried shrimp powder and spicy tamarind sauce (£9.75). Light & tasty, it was a harmless dish that you can’t really go wrong with.
Mains were another sharing affair, with us choosing to split the pad Thai and unconventional Kobe beef green Thai curry.
The “pad Thai gai”, Thai rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, Chinese chives, crushed peanuts, bean curd and bean sprouts in a special homemade sauce, topped with their signature egg net (£15.50), was absolutely MAGICAL.
Stunningly presented (that egg net is something of a work of art), the balance of flavours was absolutely perfect and the portion size enough to keep you munching for days. I am rather proud of my authentic pad Thai recipe which I learnt how to make at a cooking school in Thailand, but will readily admit that this was the best pad Thai I’ve eaten. Ever.
The “gaeng kiew wan neur kobe” was inevitably going to sit in the shadows of such an exceptional dish, but the marinated sirloin of Kobe beef served on a bed of grilled aubergine and topped with a rich green curry sauce (£58.00) was somewhat of a let down in its own right, with the meat surprisingly fatty and the dish as a whole just not quite working.
Lesson learnt, sometimes sticking to basics is best!
Our side of “kow pad kai” however, aka stir-fried Thai rice with soy sauce and egg (£4.00), was well executed and delicious smothered in the rich green curry sauce.
As for dessert, we face planted into the dessert selection for two (£16.00), which we altered a little to include the classic Thai dessert of honey mango sticky rice with coconut milk; “chocolate paradise”, otherwise described as double layers of chocolate with caramel crunch; and a scoop of vanilla-pandan ice-cream.
All I can say is that “chocolate paradise” is aptly named. It was decadent and delicious and gooey and rich with delightful contrast delivered by the sweet and crunchy caramel balls. Easily up there in my favourite ever chocolate desserts, particularly as it wasn’t just another fondant or brownie (blasphemy I know); this little fella was original and an absolute winner!
I would, however, give the honey mango sticky rice with coconut milk a miss. When I’ve had this dessert previously the mango has always been served cold, creating delicious, refreshing contrast to the warm sticky rice, whereas Mango Tree’s overall offering was warm making the whole thing a bit of a congealed, mushy, lukewarm mess. Plus, I’m personally quite averse to hot fruit unless it (conventionally… i.e. take your pineapple elsewhere) belongs in a crumble or pie… but that may just be me!
With two glasses of dessert wine, ‘Muscat de Beames, France’ (£10 supplement when ordering the dessert sharing selection) in hand, the chocolate sphere with vanilla-pandan ice-cream and warm salted caramel sauce (£8.50) slipped down even easier than it otherwise would have.
My idea of the perfect Happy Ending, the warm salted caramel sauce melted the chocolate sphere to create a rich and indulgent bath for the excellent surprise addition of fresh berries to swim in, which was beautifully and contrastingly complemented by the concealed scoop of vanilla-pandan ice-cream.
Absolute gluttonous heaven.
Mango Tree is on the expensive side, especially for Thai food, but given the location, personable & attentive service, and unbelievable dishes *provided you order correctly*, it is absolutely worth every penny.
In other words, go for date night, ask for Boyd, get the Thai fish cakes and duck spring rolls to start, the pad Thai and a more generic green Thai curry for mains, the sharing dessert platter and/or (depending on whether you’re as greedy as us and want to experience two of the most epic chocolate desserts of your life) chocolate sphere, and you’re set for a wonderful evening and meal.
Mango Tree now holds even fonder memories for me so I hope you’ll give them a try!
*I dined as a guest of Mango Tree, but all opinions are my own.