Quite often we tend to get wrapped up in the hype of trendy or new restaurant openings that we forget there are plenty of well-established venues serving up delicious cuisine, that also need recognition. It may have taken Elldrew 20 odd years to finally book a table at Pan Asian restaurant Banana Tree, but after the fantastic meal we had we most certainly have a lot of catching up to do!
This still small chain, with a current count of 9 restaurants in the UK, started as a café by founder and head chef William Chow, who still runs the company and ensures his passion for good food is not diminished with their success. Utilising herbs and spices to create dishes influenced from the Indochina region (Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore), Banana Tree offers a balanced menu to cater for all taste buds, and to say they deliver on quality and flavour is an understatement.
We were asked if we wanted any prawn crackers with our drinks order, whilst we perused the menu. We went for the dried pulled beef with aromatic herbs & peanuts, served with crackers, which were a perfect nibble to satisfy our stomachs as we breathed in the great aromas from around the restaurant.
Sharing everything, we started with the steamed chicken dumplings served with a vinegar, garlic & fresh herb sauce. This moorish dish had Drew spooning the sauce from the bowl, wanting more. The fresh ‘Indo’ pulled duck wraps (think of a deep-fried spring roll) were served with an assembly instruction card that had us wrapping the rolls, Viet pickles and fresh herbs (coriander and mint) in lettuce leaves. What a treat. The contrast of fresh and fried ingredients worked brilliantly as we dunked our wraps in a perfectly balanced Nuoc Cham dipping sauce. Our only grip was the two large lettuce leaves for the four rolls, it would have been great if they had of cut the leaves for each portion as our tearing skills were dire.
For mains, we had to try the beef Rendang, billed as legendary. OMG! Amazing flavours with meat that melted in your mouth. A curry, cooked over 4 hours, from the Minangkabau Hill tribe of Indonesia. All we can say is thank you for sharing that recipe, possibly one of the best Rendang ever. Moving on, and just as delicious, was the slices of blackened chilli grilled pork cooked in aromatic dark soy, palm sugar, garlic & ground spices, accompanied with a refreshing chilli salsa. Our waiter offered great advice about mixing sweet and savoury dishes, explaining how sugar affects the palate, even changing the flavours of the wine we were drinking, so they really helped in ensuring we ordered two mains that complemented each other.
We loved the rustic décor of Banana Tree, and the buzzy vibe. The staff provided flawless service on a busy Thursday evening. Great value with amazing dishes, we can’t wait to return and work our way through the rest of the menu.