Mango trees. The climbing frames of my ancestors. Whilst my genetic instincts would have had me scaling the front of the restaurant with my bare hands and feet, I kept my shoes on and walked inside instead. A perfect example of nurture over nature. Boasting “exquisite thai cuisine in a stylish venue”, Mango Tree is a popular London destination by all regards, and naturally, we were eager to see whether they would live up to the prominence of their name. Apart from the duck, all the meat here is halal. Alcohol is served.
Steak and I ordered a mixed satay for starters, kow pad saparot, and chicken penang red curry with sticky rice for mains. The mixed satay comprised of two chicken satays, two beef satays, and one mixed seafood satay, served with peanut sauce and an assortment of salad. The chicken satay was well cooked, moist and though quite firm, remained tender. They were also very flavoursome, delivering a strong hint of lime leaves. The peanut sauce that accompanied the satays had a wonderfully strong, rich flavour, and a thick consistency which contrasted well with the crunchy texture of the peanut pieces within.
The beef satays were also firm yet tender, boasting a moderately strong meaty flavour that was complemented well by the peanut sauce. The single seafood satay consisted of a large king prawn, a scallop, and a piece of butterfish. The prawn was soft and well cooked, though rather bland, requiring the peanut sauce to bail it out and do all the work. The scallop was also rather bland. The butterfish however was much better, being soft, thick and very flavoursome, though certain parts were a little rubbery. The salad that accompanied the satays was also pleasant, providing a variety of contrasting textures whilst it’s dressing provided a mildly sharp tang.
We were in for a surprise with mains. The kow pad saparot consisted of fried Thai rice, chicken, prawns, raisins and pineapples, embedded within the carcass of a pineapple and topped with a piece of lime. Safe to say it stole the limelight. I’d like to make an official apology for that joke, I couldn’t help myself. (Please don’t leave). The rice at the summit of the pineapple-embedded mountain had a steam clean texture, whilst that within the core of the pineapple had a very sticky, glazed texture, delivering a rich, sweet, and strong flavour, and a strong essence of pineapple. The prawns within the rice were fairly large, soft, tender, and well-cooked, though again, they were a little bland. The chicken pieces however, delivered a hint of lime, and were equally soft, tender, and well-cooked. The accompanying peppers and roasted cashew nuts provided a pleasantly contrasting crunchy texture, whilst the small raisins and pineapple pieces delivered a combination of sweet and sour bursts, which complemented and enhanced the sweetness of the rice. I would however, recommend that you order this dish to share, especially if you’re not too great a fan of sweet rice. The rice is very very sweet and rich, and can become somewhat overbearing towards the end of the dish.
The penang red curry meanwhile consisted of a rich curry gravy with a thick and smooth consistency. The curry carried with it a strong essence of coconut milk and lime leaves, with a mild hint of spice. The chicken pieces within were tender, well-cooked, and had been thoroughly penetrated by the flavours of the curry. Though the sticky rice was a little firm, it combined well with the curry.
However, whilst our first visit was very pleasant, perhaps worthy of a 4 or 4.5, Steak’s second visit with Zippo’s circus a week later was far less fruitful. She found the satays (which were excellent on our visit) to be overcooked, whilst the peanut sauce was far too sweet, almost sickeningly so. Generally, the flavours in each dish, from the pad Thai to the penang curry, were also lacking in strength. Thus, whilst Mango Tree can produce some fantastic food, it’s clear that consistency may be a bit of an issue.
As Mrs. Bean – (who is quite possibly the baby of the year group), finally turned 21 and bowed down to the laws of mathematics and ageing, a return trip to Mango Tree was in order. Ulcer and I had both ended up wearing grey trousers and brown brogues, and so, seeing as we might as well continue with this weird, accidental, bromantic matching game we had going on, we decided to share Mango Tree’s platter of appetisers. This consisted of chicken satay, thai fish cakes, vegetable spring rolls and chicken mince purses alongside an assortment of sauces. The chicken satay was as flavoursome as I remembered it to be from my last visit, as was the rich and thick peanut sauce, without any trace of the flaws Steak experienced on her return visit. The thai fish cakes meanwhile, had a soft, spongy texture, and possessed a satisfying, mildly spicy flavour, whilst the chicken mince purses, though crispy in texture with a mildly flavoursome filling, weren’t particularly special nor exciting. The vegetable spring rolls ironically induced the most eco-guilt, with a strong, earthy, vegetable essence that made it feel as though I was eating a rolled-up vegan – and a tasty one at that. The plum sauce that accompanied our platter presented a sweet and slightly tangy kick, but was not particularly mind-blowing, though the sweet chilli sauce possessed more presence.
For mains, Ulcer and I both ended up ordering a grilled rack of lamb each. We were worryingly on the verge of becoming some sort of Vietnamese-Bengali remake of Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Twins” film. (Where I would be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Obviously. *Clears throat*). What arrived were three high quality cutlets/chops of lamb, which were well cooked to the medium-rare I had asked for. A thick, firm band of pink ran throughout the centre of the meat, which was incredibly tender and succulent, and bursting with flavour. The sauce that they bathed in was brimming with a hot, spicy flavour that also delivered a mild background tang. The dish as a whole came together brilliantly, and was complemented well by the accompanying mushrooms and cherry tomato pieces.
With no birthday cake in sight, we all secretly ordered a chocolate brownie with vanilla pandan ice-cream for Mrs. Bean. After one flamboyant, sparkling candle, and about 300 photos of each person either feeding or pretending to feed the cake to Mrs. Bean, (some traditions never die), we all somehow ended up eating more of the cake than Mrs. Bean herself. A genuine mistake by all accounts. Honest.
The brownie was rich and sweet, but what really took the plate by storm was the vanilla-pandan ice cream, which possessed a very strong essence of pandan, dominating the vanilla component completely and providing a pleasant “green” sweetness to the tongue. A great way to end a great meal. Mango Tree continues to provide fantastic food, and at this point, I think a score of 3.5 is just right for them.
Value For Money: 2.5/5
The mixed satay from my first visit cost £9.95, whilst the kow pad saparot cost £14.75, and the penang red curry cost £11.95. The mango tree platter from my second visit cost £10.95 per person, whilst the grilled rack of lamb cost £17.95. Generally, single starters here cost around £5-£10, whilst main dishes cost between £15-£30, and sides cost £3-£7 – a little costly perhaps, but in line with the expecations of the location. Portion sizes are also not too unreasonable, and are deceiving at first glance. My first meal with Steak was surprisingly filling, and even I struggled to finish. Though err – when I stood up after the bill, I realised I had done my belt up too tightly and as a result it had been strangling my stomach. Stop laughing at me.
Service is very friendly and pleasant. Waiters and waitresses are also very attentive, and communicate well, ensuring you’re never waiting too long for the next part of your meal or for the bill, even when it’s quite a busy night. They’re definitely well-staffed, with plenty of people patrolling around to help. Large numbers are good. (Unless they’re on the bill).
Mango Tree is very well furnished, with a modern decor that suits it’s place amongst the roads of Victoria. With comfortable seating and attractive surroundings, it’s well suited for a special occasion or a casual gathering. The restaurant itself is a brisk 10 minute walk from Victoria station. There may be parking nearby, but I wouldn’t count on it.
The atmosphere is nice and relaxed at Mango Tree, and somewhat private. You can easily enjoy your meal with your dining companions in your own personal space as the bustle continues around you.
Whilst Mango Tree performs well on all fronts, they must work harder to maintain consistency and cut out weaknesses. Mango Tree can produce some great food, and with an attractive decor and wonderful ambience, it’s certainly worth visiting, albeit with caution – you may hit or miss.
Originally published: 28/03/15