London Food Review : Mango Tree

Before Somsaa and Smoking Goat, there was Mango Tree.

From the moment I enter, I feel I have stepped back in time a little bit. The classical vibes of this place remind me of a time when dining out was a sense of occasion. The restaurant is cavernous, occupying a prime location in London Belgravia. There are leather-padded chairs and wooden floorboards, giving it a dark, moody look but the floor-to-ceilings windows cast enough dust-spangled sunlight to brighten up the space. One would expect this to be a fine dining, stuffy place. Instead, the lack of crisp white cloths suggest a more relaxed and informal destination to dine (although I do spy a drinks trolley from the corner of my eye). It is retro but not jaded.

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From the starters, we order an assortment of crowd-pleasing Thai staples: Mango Tree Pork Satay (grilled skewers of marinated pork threaded into a skewer); Spicy Thai Fishcakes (with fish paste and minced prawns, seasoned with Thai Curry paste and lime leaves) and Chicken Jeerapan (grilled boneless corn-fed chicken, marinated in black pepper, garlic and coriander).

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Perhaps the least favourite is the satay which is not as satisfying as the fragrant and aromatic fish cakes or the fatty full-flavoured chicken thighs. Three starters are enough to share between two without stuffing ourselves completely.

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The mains include a soothing, creamy Prawn Penang (rich red curry with coconut leaves, sweet basil leaves and pea aubergine) and some fluffy Egg Fried Rice, all decently portioned and smelling divine.

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My main of Talay Pad Cha (spicy wok-fried mixed seafood with fresh chilli, garlic, that herbs and peppercorns) is tantalising; groaning with heaps of juicy prawns, squid, mussels in a puddle of scintillating fiery broth. My senses are numbed with the heat from the chillies and peppercorns so the accompanying coconut rice is a life-saver. This dish is definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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Being established for these many years, the wheels of this place are well-oiled. Service is spot-on, waiters polite and smile without being too overfamiliar. Overall, it is a completely satisfying meal for the belly and soul.

The food here reminds me of a time when London was just starting to discover food outside of the British staples. Unlike recent Thai joints that are uncompromising and staunch about their authenticity of flavours, I feel the food in Mango Tree is tweaked to suit old-school English clientele, slightly wimped down without deviating too much from flavours. In a foodie capital like London with diverse demographic, there is and should be a place for both.

Location: 46 Grosvenor Place, London SW1X 7EQ

More information can be found here.

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