Where to go
On their way to the Royal Albert Hall, my friends and I caught up in Banana Tree in Bayswater. I suggested the restaurant because it’s about 30 minutes walking distance from campus, and only 20 minutes from Wilson House and Pembridge. Ever since she went on a yoga trip to Vietnam, one of my friends has become a die-hard fan of far eastern cuisine. To appease her, I suggested this place as they claim to serve contemporary Indochinese food, and I thought it would be a nice change from the traditional Chinese takeout we normally get.
From the minute we walked in the staff were very welcoming and sat us at a spacious table with benches. The seating along with exposed brick walls, and soft low-hanging lighting gave it a very chilled out vibe, like a beach hut fused with a modern restaurant. The ambience certainly was in line with their contemporary Indochinese theme.
Ordering took about 20 minutes, because there was just so much choice! Our waitress brought us five different menus: main menu, vegetarian menu, drinks menu, desserts menu, specials menu, and on the menus themselves there were symbols identifying if dishes are vegan, vegan but with eggs, gluten free, halal, recommended, spiciness levels, etc. After I attempted to decipher these hieroglyphics, read all the menus, and remember everything, I just asked the waitress for help. She had knowledge, which was good because it’s such a let-down if the staff do not know about the food themselves.
For starters we got duck and vegan spring rolls, sesame crackers, and crispy street style dough with a satay sauce. The spring rolls each came with different sauces which complemented their insides. They were cooked well, hot on the inside, crispy on the outside. Standard spring rolls. The sesame crackers tasted a bit like stale bread with the texture of a cracker. I didn’t like them much because I prefer prawn crackers. But if you’re vegetarian, like my friend who shot-gunned the last one, I feel like you’ll like them a lot. The dough was interesting. It wasn’t really crispy, more chewy. The sweet satay sauce made it taste more like a dessert than a starter. It definitely felt like street food, and was kind of like I was eating Indonesian churros.
For mains, my friends all got stir fry combos. The combo came with nutty papaya salad, flavoured rice and cornballs, so it’s worth paying for the upgrade. They said it was really good. Not very descriptive of them, but at least they were happy.
I couldn’t decide which meat to get in my Laksa soup, so I got them all. Getting a superior combo meant my massive bowl of soupy noodles came with prawn, fishballs, beef, chicken and vegetables. It had a good balance of sweetness from the coconut milk and sourness, probably from the fish sauce and lime juice. They gave it a red chilli symbol on the menu, but it only had a hint of spice to me. Nonetheless it was flavourful and really filled me up. I packed away most of it for my lunch the next day. My friends finished their food, but at the cost of waddling instead of walking to the bus stop.
Because we had tastecards, the bill came to about £10 per person, which I think is a really good deal given the quality and size of our starter and main. As well as that, before 19:30 it’s happy hour(s) so drinks are half price too! It did take ages to pay, as there was some problem in the kitchen. The waiter apologised profusely though, which made it better because they recognised we were inconvenienced.
It’s good when a restaurant serves good tasting food, but here the food was so much more than just that. It was memorable. Every dish had a strong unique flavour, rather than all the food having the same base taste. There was a wide range of options on the menu, so it does cater across the spectrum for people who are fussy and like simple tastes, as well as those who like trying new complex flavours. It’s a chain so there are branches all over London making it easily accessible. I would definitely recommend going, I’ve already been again twice since!