Eating Around: Banana Tree, Soho, London

Mulling over where to take my mum for her birthday dinner before visiting the theatre in London, my sister and I decided we had to pick somewhere with an Asian cuisine style feel, as this is her favourite type of food. We also wanted to pick somewhere quirky, that none of us had been to before and that wouldn’t take too long as we had to be at the theatre for a set time. When I spotted Indonesian venue Banana Tree near my office in Soho, it pretty much hit the nail on the head. I was really intrigued to see whether we would enjoy the food and whether it would match up to our expectations.

img_0373Firstly, the restaurant had a really great atmosphere to it, although that could have had something to do with happy hour. Selected cocktails were included, so when I arrived at the table, my sister had already generous ordered me two tequila sunrises, straws pointedly waving in my direction. What can I say, I just can’t resist that lovely orange to red gradient of the orange juice combined with the berry flavoured grenadine. Oh and I like the tequila too… The cocktails that were included in the happy hour offer were your standard choices and there wasn’t anything unusual or out there on the cocktail menu. It was all about making diners happy with old, faithful favourites that you can come back to, time and time again.

Thinking I should probably have some food with the lashings of alcohol, I decided to go for something that was hailed the ‘king of curries’ on the menu, the legendary rending, made using beef. This slow cooked dish is an Indonesian speciality and I have to say, it knocked my socks off. The large beef chunks were well cooked and so tender that they flaked easily, almost as if you were preparing pulled beef. The sauce was a sticky and plentiful pile of dark brown that had a much spicier kick than you would imagine, especially considering that the sauce has a coconut base! It was fragrant and nutty with a warm kick, the wonderful aromatic flavours fully infusing the beef for a well-rounded and moreish flavour.

img_0374I decided to ‘combo’ my main course which meant that it came with an array of sides rather than me just picking one side. This included a crunchy house salad, complete with roasted nuts for extra flavour as well as sweet corn cakes, which I absolutely loved. They reminded me a bit of an onion bharji, as they had that same crispy, fried exterior, yet the inside was wonderfully soft and also sweet because of the vegetables used. These were a lot tastier than I imagined, although the large prawn cracker that also came with the dish was really nice too and very helpful for dunking in my curry sauce. The final side included in the combo was aromatic spiced rice, which was basically a plain white rice that didn’t compete too much with the strong flavours of my curry.

Although it doesn’t look like a massive portion, this meal was very filling. The curry was the star of the show with big, bold and powerful flavours, that wiped the floor of my sides. The different components of the side dishes worked really well with the main meat dish and acted as the perfect accompaniments to really bring out and accentuate the flavour combinations. It was a well thought out and creative dish. I have never really dabbled in Indonesian food before, but this has definitely whet my appetite to try some more. I loved the presentation of the dish too – it reminded me of sunshine and beaches with the big palm fronds and mounds of crushed nuts.

The modern interior of the restaurant made an average Wednesday feel like the weekend, and although the décor wasn’t really that memorable, the menu and cocktails certainly were. The staff were lovely and although the prices are a little expensive for my taste, I still really enjoyed the food on offer.

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