MC and T report on a meal hosted by Banana Tree. No fancy words (they have got no time for that) and they say it as it is. Here's their verdict.
The restaurant is located about two thirds of the way down Wardour street from Oxford street. As we walked down Wardour street we passed by many other restaurants before getting to Banana Tree at Soho. Though it's the only Indochina restaurant in the vicinity, it faces stiff competition from the wide variety of choices along the street.
My first impression of the restaurant was it reminded me of Cha Cha Moon, Wagamama and the Busaba Eathai but with an Indochina twist.
The restaurant has similar long rectangular communal tables which is great for big gatherings and groups. The restaurant has level access at pavement level for prams or wheelchairs and plenty of space to park prams but apparently no high chairs for children.
The walls were a bit empty and lacking décor. It would be nice to have some pictures of Life in the old Indochina and give people a feeling of nostalgic charm. The staff was extremely friendly, you can't fault them on service.
We ordered Ba Kwa and the some Indonesian tapioca crackers with satay sauce. The satay peanut sauce was delicious. The crackers come with the option of the chilli dip.
The Ba Kwa or grilled pork jerky (£3.80 for two strips) turned out be smaller than I had expected. The bakwa tasted more like dry bacon but they were at least hot from the oven. I thought that they were a bit overpriced. I am not sure I would ever order them again.
We ordered 4 main dishes and shared them among us.
a) ‘Ying yang’ Laksa – great taste, nice aroma, delicious but some people would probably prefer it a bit more chilli hot but we enjoyed it and the soup was nice. They were different style and flavour that we had at Hare and tortoise, chop chop but I felt the taste and quality were definitely more superior.
b) Legendary rendang was the highlight of the meal and it really lived up to its name. The dish came with an oriental salad and a bowl of rice. All of us unanimously love it and it was the first dish to be finished. We thought it was way much better than Satay House and Jom Makan.
c) Kway tiao mee – we were expecting a char kway tiao like those served at Cha Cha Moon but it was simply just stir fried noodles - mee (noodles) without kway tiao (pho). It was good but we were slightly disappointed it was not the variety we were hoping for.
d) Lastly we had the soupy pho with braised shitake. To be honest, the pho was nice but nothing as authentic and close to Vietnamese Pho I had in Cay Tre and Sen Viet. Unless you need a quick fix for Vietnamese pho, I would try a different dish next time.
We noticed that there was no nasi lemak (coconut fragrant rice) on the menu. It would have been nice to have a couple of dishes with banana leaves on it that relate to the name of Banana Tree. It was a shame that there were also no dessert menu to complete our dinner either. Maybe, they can introduce some bananas fritters with ice cream.
The restaurant is reasonably priced and eminently suitable for theatre goers. Will we go again? Yes if we are in the area. Then again, Banana Tree doesn't really have the wow factor (for me at least). With the wide restaurants and eateries selection in Soho, who knows?
A guest post by MC and T. They love their pho to bits.
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