• Field Report: Mango Tree London

    January 23rd, 2010quarrygirllondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    heyo, readers! time for another vegan field report! this one comes to us from all the way across the pond, by da datamonkey in london! here’s a very humorous review of mango tree, a super vegan-friendly thai restaurant that i can’t wait to visit:

    Let me start off by saying, I’ll give full disclosure! Mango Tree is my favourite Thai restaurant in London. I’ve been lucky enough to have been eating here for years, having found it by chance one day! What a good day that was. The menu is taken from all over Thailand – the milder cooking of the North (often influenced by Muslim curries), the spicy but simpler food of the East, the fiery heat and complexity of Southern dishes, to the Chinese/Thai style of the Central regions – and hand crafted into the refined “Royal Court Cuisine” style of Bangkok Palaces, with street influences in there too. Add in a slight Western take from Mark, the executive chef, and it really rocks. Be aware that MT is often fully booked from opening through to closing, so booking ahead can be essential (300 covers a night is not unusual). If you can, book using toptable and get 50% off your food bill (but not booze sadly). But even at full price it’s still great value! Suffice to say I normally eat here once a week and get severe withdrawal symptoms if it goes beyond 12 days…

    If you are asked to wait in the bar (more on that later) for your table, I recommend saving the cocktails (have a beer) and free nibbles until after the food. Don’t be tempted just yet. You will need the space… MT have 330ml and 750ml bottles of Tiger & Chang beer (from £5), and a superb selection of top quality (from £17) wines and spirits. I prefer beer with Thai food. It just seems right. A little tip on seating. For two people, see if you can, get either of the four seats by the serving pods at each end, or by the posts on the left had side. Just a tad more private. For four people or more, try to get either side toward the ends. The Thai way is to have all the dishes at the same time, however MT has sensibly bowed to the western market and separates dishes into courses (I often eat as one course).

    I’m sure most people have heard of Pad Thai, and MT do a fantastic one. But with over 20 dishes suitable for vegans, I recommend you try something new. When you first get the 20 plus page menu it can be quite daunting, looking through to find the clearly labeled vegan dishes. Top Tip: Go to the back pages where the vegan menu is! Oh the treasures and pleasures you are about to receive.

    I normally start with Tom Yum Jay (Jay kinda means vegan in Thai), a very – in my case – spicy soup with nice crunchy (just right) courgettes, squash, Thai mushrooms, baby corn and a broth to die for. A very reasonable £5 is the normal cost, but with toptable you only pay £2-50. BARGAIN! As you slurp (you just must to get the most air in – and therefore taste – don’t worry about the other guests, the staff will respect you!), you immediately get the spot on sweet/sour/salty tastes, then a hit of fresh lime, then the galangal (a bit like ginger but more citrusy) followed by the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, Thai basil, coriander and other herbs and spices. Finally the kick comes. BAM. CHILI! And it goes as quickly, and then you really need more…. just the way it should be. PERFECT. I am always tempted to lick the bowl clean. OK… I have done that.

    Tom Yum – Courgette, mushroom, baby sweetcorn and squash in a spicy broth (£5)

    This soup is the ultimate in flavour mixology – every variant of taste sensation – the whole, being way more, than the sum of the parts. A stressful day just disappears into the delicious vapours coming from this soup… and takes me straight back to Bangkok. A great way to start a meal if ever there was one! Truly.. Tom Yummy! MT will make this soup less spicy should you want it so, but please don’t ask for no spice, it’s just not done.

    Phad Thai Lai Sen Jai (Yellow tofu with beansprouts) with Som Tom (green papaya salad) and Kow Hom Ma Li (Steamed Jasmine rice)

    After recovering from the sensual overload (and a couple of nose blows) it’s down to the mains… One of the treasures on the menu is the very unusual Pad Thai Lai Sen Jay – yellow beancurd shipped over from Thailand (prepared two ways – deep fried for a chewy texture and soft fried for succulent contrast), then stir fried with bean sprouts and gloriously coated in tasty tamarind paste, a small amount of chili (it’s not hot) and various other spices. The dish is garnished with finely chopped peanuts and Thai chives. No noodles required here. Your first taste may well seem like nothing you have eaten before. This dish is totally subliminal. It’s like someone has replaced your taste buds with new ones. The yellow tofu gives a wonderful contrast between its soft and chewy variants, and the beansprouts give that fresh, juicy texture that makes a match made in the Heavens. The taste kinda creeps up over your tongue, then across it, and then just starts confusing you by jumping around randomly. No kidding. It is that good.

    Phad Thai Lai Sen Jay – Yellow Beancurd with Beansprouts, Chinese chives and peanuts in tamarind sauce. (£12)

    To provide the required contrast to the sweet/slightly spicy Pad Thai Lai Sen Jay, I always order Som Tum – a finely hand shredded, crunchy green papaya salad with snake beans (a bit like French beans but better) and plump cherry tomatoes dowsed in fresh lime juice, minced chilli, mushroom soya sauce (to replace the fish sauce), then squished up a bit to help the flavours perpetrate their good deeds. Peanuts are perfectly sprinkled to provide a contrasting texture. This is the best I’ve had outside of Thailand. So, a simple dish you think. It is very, very hard to replicate properly in your own kitchen. This is on the menu as a starter, but it really should be eaten throughout the meal in my view. A standard dish in Thailand, it is often eaten only with rice at breakfast and lunchtime as a quick, refreshing snack. The balance of sweet, salty, savoury and spicy tastes is again, PERFECT!

    Som Tum – Shredded Green papaya with snake beans, tomato and spicy limey sauce. (£5)

    As is normal in Thailand, I always have steamed Jasmine rice (Kow Hom Ma Li) to mop up the rich juices. The quality of rice is paramount to Thai’s (who probably eat more rice per head than any other country), and MT serve truly great rice. I really love it with just the juice from the Som Tum or even just a splash of soya sauce (reminds me of the vegan options many, many years ago in Asian restaurants!). And I don’t normally eat rice! The best way to eat this combo is to pile high and mix it up. Each mouth full should include a little of everything, ensuring the different tastes all combine and transport you away to a wonderful place. I recommend using a spoon (in place of a knife) and fork. Use the spoon as the main tool to shovel the food in. It works!

    The full plate – oh yeah scoff time! (Priceless)

    Now if you still have room, the desert menu is worth a good look. The ladies always love it! To make sure you have enough room maybe get some of the mains as a doggy bag. It’s worth it coz later you will have the craving again… I normally have the fresh Alfonso (or “honey” mango” lol) but none were fresh. So I tried the Mango Spice Sorbet (they have 4 sorbets suitable) for the first time. As you might expect the Spice in Da Ice was HOT TO TROT. Only real chili heads need apply. OMG YEAH!! I’ve only ever had one other sorbet like this, at Awana (MT’s sister restaurant, more about this superb Malay restaurant another time hopefully). Not sure which wins!! Head to head required.

    Spicy Mango Sorbet- Feel it hot hot hot! (£5)

    The sorbet is made using only fresh mango flesh, juice and a mix of enticing Thai flavours. I got mango, chilli (no shit Sherlock), lemongrass, more chili, even more chili…. you get the idea. Now the test of a good chef is to make that heat disappear, without leaving any chili “pain”. Mark has totally succeeded here. As you pile into the sorbet (you will), you suddenly hit a base of sticky rice (told you they like rice!) that has a slightly frozen top layer that gives a great crunch and really sets off the desert. Very clever. Trevor. I will be eating this again. In fact I wanted to take a bucket load home!

    Surprise coconut rice in the base! Crunch!

    By this point you will be at least 1-2 hours into the meal, it’s not really a rushed affair. So a visit to the little boys (or girls) room will no doubt have been required. The handwash is non-tested and vegan. As you can see even the Gents is a cool place. I really don’t normally go on about toilets (but as a vegan I frequent them, ahem, occasionally), but these guys have got this to a tee. The wonderful scents of jasmine and lemongrass and the simple, but elegant, style means the whole experience at this restaurant is chilled out. Its like a male, VERY toned down version of Lush. It’s cool for a bog.

    Da Gents! You can tell it’s the Gents as the toilet seat is up! (Free)

    And then to the final event. A fave of mine. COCKTAILS!! The list is endless. I think it’s over 40 pages of fine booze. The bar staff really do know their stuff. Alcofrol Mixology has a happy home here. Of special note is the selection of fine spirits. I have been known to have the odd drink that is actually older than me. Cocktails aren’t cheap at £7-£12 on average, but worth it. Spirits range from £5-£7 up to one helluva lot of money. You can get a wide range and many classics have a very good Thai slant on them! I am a particular fan of the range of spirits here to be honest, but went for a cocktail as I love a couple of them on the long menu. And I needed a palate cleanser after the sorbet!! 😉

    How many drinks can I have in one night?

    This time I went for a Thai Mojito. A strikingly different take on the classic, this is unmistakably Thai! The addition of lemongrass and thai sweet basil to the mix is lovely. It’s served so the soda is floated with the crushed ice on top. Mint is held in the top layer. The proper brown sugar and Cuban rum stay below waiting to attack. Now I started at the top and sunk the straw down. It worked. But to be honest I then mixed it all up with the fresh stick of Lemongrass to the left to make a drink that last.. well not long is all I’m saying on here. Hic.

    The Thai Mojito = Chairmans Reserve Rhum, mekhong, fresh lime juice, mint leaves, Thai sweet basil, brown sugar, soda. HEAVEN! (£7)

    In summary, Mango Tree London is superb. If you fancy some fine Thai dining in London, I can heartily recommend it. The service is friendly, without being intrusive, it’s great for sharing food you can trust with meaters, and the food itself is outstanding. 11/11 as Spinal Tap would no doubt agree.. No surprise I keep coming back here!! Give it a go if in London. You will regret it if you don’t! Enjoy ☺

    Mango Tree
    46 Grosvenor Place, London, SW1X 7EQ
    Tel: +44 (0) 207 823 1888
    Opening Hours
    Lunch: Served from 12:00 to 15:00, Monday to Saturday.
    Dinner: Served from 18:00 to 23:00, Monday to Saturday
    Open all day from 12:00 to 22:30 on Sunday

    Tags: , , , ,

11 responses to “Field Report: Mango Tree London” RSS icon

Leave a reply