By Naheen Madarbarkus.
Spreading their Pan Asian cuisine across London, the Banana Tree restaurant family continues to grow. First there was west London, then came their addition south of the river and now, six restaurants on, comes Soho. Welcome the Banana Tree invasion.
The Banana Tree owner, William Chow, was at the launch of the new Soho restaurant to greet well wishers as a full house turned up to welcome the newest member of their family.
The Banana family tree first took root 20 years ago when founder and head chef Will stumbled upon a Pan Oriental menu that set out to please the taste buds of Londoners. The Mekong influenced dishes bring together the cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, which suit anyone who has had no prior eating experience in the Asian field.
Will coined the (self-confessed corny but) truthful company ethos: “spreading the love of great food”. This came to reality at the first west London branch, Bayswater, in 1991 and continues with the Tree family now collectively serving over 10,000 meals a week at their Clapham Junction, Angel, West Hampstead and Maida Vale counterparts.
So enter the new branch, the baby, the sixth offering at Soho. Open barely a month, this central London restaurant – conveniently located between Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden - can only see a good future ahead. A dining room that holds 100, a menu which offers a Mekong mix of chilli, vegetarian and meat delights, and a cocktail menu that makes the after work evening drink a bit more daring.
Perusing the menu, I noticed that the criminal cocktail to stand out was the Dirty Thai Guy. A daring drink containing rum and Cointreau, it’s one of those that burns as it goes down the throat with its aftertaste of lemon juice when the fire party is well and truly over. Alongside the DTG, the Great Kajang Satay, with its secret peanut sauce, is simply delectable with a moreish taste that could stand alone as a main course in my book.
Other dishes that make the Top 10 Most Wanted include the Aromatic Pho - a tasty soup stock dish that will keep the cold out of the winter season - and the Legendary Rendang, a labour-intensive cooked beef that melts on the tongue. Will has even nicknamed it the ‘King of The Curries’. Other offerings put together soup portions, noodle dishes and even desserts to suit the quickest of bites or a lounging session between courses.
As the dishes continued to make their way from the kitchen, Will weaved between excited diners, stopping to greet them and even opening his ears to criticism. Mr Chow wants everyone to embrace his latest addition and so the last word must go to the proud father: “Get a cocktail in your hand, relax and prepare your taste buds for our Indochina experience”.