A lively place to enjoy great tasting Indochinese fare with friends.
With its warehouse-inspired interior this Hampstead Banana Tree doesn't quite look like most people's idea of a Malaysian canteen. However, it feels airy and modern, and the communal tables are ideal for a dinner with group of friends.
This very busy and laid back canteen is bustling with young diners, and you are likely to be sharing your table with chatty strangers. Service can be hurried and you might get the feeling of being rushed through your meal to give a seat to those queueing at the door. As it's so busy it can get a little noisy, but that's part of the style of the venue and overall the atmosphere is cheerful and pleasant.
The menu has a great variety of Indochinese-inspired fare and is conveniently split into separate sections for curries, noodles and grilled meat. You can customise your main course with your choice of meat or seafood and you can 'combo-up' your dish by adding extra sides. Soups are delicious; the laksa is top notch with just the right amount of coconut milk to give it a velvety texture, and it's full of tangy lemongrass flavour. Portions are filling and several vegetarian-friendly options (such as 'veggie-duck') are also a welcome surprise. Desserts are less impressive but original nonetheless: the green-Thai pancakes are not as flavoursome as one might expect but still worth a try for their unusual and interesting presentation.
There is a good selection of wines (with a pretty decent house wine for £14.25) and imported beers but cocktails are the real deal here. Priced at about £7, the list features a selection of very intriguing combinations such as the Dirty Thai Guy, made up of rum, Cointreau, lime and lemongrass with a strong hint of nutmeg. It's a shame they don't do pitchers, which would suit the all-sharing concept of the restaurant.
The Last Word
It might not be the most authentic pan-Asian food you'll ever enjoy, but it's fresh and vibrant, with an atmosphere to match.