This newly refurbished outlet of the growing chain of Indochinese restaurants doesn't disappoint on flavour, variety and innovation.
Situated amongst the huge variety of restaurants found in Westbourne Grove, Banana Tree is surrounded by competition. It's set a little back from the roadside, with a high volume of passing trade that looks eagerly into the big windows and wonders what is on offer. The new décor sports an industrial theme, with heavy wooden tables, dark grey slate floor tiles and exposed piping given a splash of colour from bright red drop lighting and a vibrant selection of condiments on the table.
Funky music plays in the background as the extremely friendly and efficient staff act to ensure your every need is met, and questions answered. The open cooking station still adequately allows for that communal dining feeling, as well as for the opportunity to watch the cocktails being made. The menu is in typical canteen style with starters, soups, noodles, curries and regional specialities.
A mixed cracker selection is brought to the table, accompanied by sweet chilli and satay dipping sauces – an excellent start and aid in decision making for the rest of the meal choices. The aubergine half (covered in a rich, sticky caramel sauce, aubergine has never been so flavoursome - £4.20) and selection of six Kajang chicken satay sticks (nutty, earthy satay sauce is perfectly balanced by spiced chicken and glutinous rice - £7.90) are perfect examples of the deep aromatic flavours typical of this cuisine. Tod man pia Thai fishcakes (£4.50) showcase delicate, light flavours, with a light battered coating containing coriander and galangal spiced bream. Presentation is neat and pleasing to the eye.
Sauteed lamb with kari patta and cashews (£8.70) and chargrilled chicken jawa (£8.20) with nasi goreng rice (£3.25) are beautiful. The lamb has a deep dark colour, and is spiced with galangal, coriander, chilli, and spring onion. The chicken is more delicately spiced, with aromatic cumin and turmeric balanced by fiery chilli and coriander from the jasmine rice. All are accompanied by a tangy mango salsa.
The dessert menu is short and sweet but choosing remains difficult. Balinese pulut hitam (£3.80) finally wins out over the coconut stuffed green Thai pancakes (£4.50). The pulut hitam is a sweet, warm rice pudding made with black rice and topped with coconut ice cream which melts gloriously into the sticky rice. It's a surprisingly light end to a very indulgent meal.
The usual wines, beers and soft drinks are available. However the cocktails are a must try for those wanting something a little more interesting, as are the raw juices for those that want to keep things totally tee. The subtle Lychee Mojito (£5.90) helps cleanse the palate for every course with its refreshing combination of mint and lychee. The Peach Mango Bellini (£6.40) is definitely more for the sweet toothed, however, even if it is rather tasty. Sparkling wine from Australia mixed with peach schnapps and zingy mango puree make three very fine bedfellows.
The Last Word
The mixture of cuisines from various destinations spanning the Indochinese continent are brought together wonderfully in this casual setting. An absolute treat of flavours, the staff are brilliant at aiding you on your tasting journey, ensuring the Bayswater location is a welcome addition to a burgeoning chain.