Sat right next to Buckingham Palace Gardens and a short stroll from Victoria tube station London’s Belgravia, Mango Tree calls itself a little bit of Thailand in London.
It’s not about street food – a trend that somehow seems to be getting more and more pretentious and less street as the months roll by – it’s about Thai food and modern flavours.With a sister restaurant serving locals, business travellers and tourists in Bangkok, as well as a well-known celebrity chef creating all kinds of new foodie infusions, they pride themselves on cuisine from all over the country.
So, who better to give it a go than Thai food experts? (Yes, that’s what I’m calling myself).
The Mango Tree London Bar
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted with the traditional sawadee kah (hello in Thai) and wai (the prayer-like hand gesture with a slight bow). This was a great sign and made us feel like we were back in Bangkok. Our coats and bags were checked in and we were shown to the bar to enjoy a cocktail. We managed to speak to the bartender who recommended drinks, and one of the managers who recommended a few signature dishes to try out.
The cocktail list is huge, with a combination of classics and Thai-inspired mixes. I went for a Mekong Comfort while the boy went for a Strawberry Mojito. They were both absolutely delicious. But they paled into insignificance when the boy ordered a seemingly ordinary Mango Colada. Why? Because it was served in a hollowed out pineapple. It was so, so fresh and a huge drink for one person to attempt on their own (so I helped, of course).
Although we were there early evening, there was still a great atmosphere, with what looked like regular office workers enjoying a post-work tipple and tourists looking for something slightly different.
The Mango Tree London Restaurant
Drinks downed and enjoyed, we were shown to our table. The room itself has huge high celings and is divided in two with a bank of seating running down the middle. Ours was by the window, although there isn’t much of a view. Buckingham Palace Gardens are walled, with barbed wire topping the ten food high brick built fortress which, in all honesty, just makes me want to hop over all the more so.
We were seated next to a table of three. The tables are packed quite closely together, so if you’re seeking something a bit more private just ask to be seated in a quiet area. The whole restaurant has a really nice buzzing atmosphere.
Our waiter was a softly spoken man from Nepal, a guy from Bangkok and a lovely Thai waitress called Sassi from northern Thailand, all who were more than happy to run through the menu for us.
There are two menus: one with offers traditional Thai food with a twist, and another by chef Ian Pengelley who heads up celebrity favourite restaurant Gilgamesh. We went for a mix of both menus, opting for Lobster Tempura, Scallops in Shell and Duck Namtok to start. Because why not try something different? Food was served promptly after ordering. I’ve never been a fan of lobster, although the tempura was cooked beautifully. The duck namtok was an unusual dish – sweet and sour and served with shallots and chilli. But the scallops were the winners. Buttery soft and served with a Thai garlic sauce, it was the dish the boy and I wanted more of.
Starters over, we decided on the Lamb Shank Massaman (recipe can be found here if London or Bangkok’s a bit out of the way) Steak with Green Curry, with sticky rice (you can find that recipe here too) and noodles. The steak was definitely something different. Usually, Thai Green Curry is made with chicken, so it was a strange new taste to get used to! It was cooked perfectly though. Again, there was a clear winner. The Lamb Massaman was outstanding. Creamy, nutty with a hint of spice, this one dish could have easily fed us both. It was exquisite. And teamed with sticky rice, was like being back in Thailand by the river, sipping on wine and watching the hustle and bustle of the city.
After the starters and mains we were both stuffed to the brim, so we took our time when ordering dessert. I eventually decided on a chocolate cake with ice cream, which was absolutely delicious.
It’s traditionally Thai. It’s strange as Thailand is the only place in the world where they’ll seem to hire more people than tables to look after their guests. And why not? The entire culture is based on smiles and politeness, and it’s reflected at Mango Tree. The staff will help in any way they can, with anything you want (including cheekily ordering Larb Gai to take home in a doggy bag). Their friendliness and willingness to chat is such a refreshing change from stuffy Belgravia restaurants. We spoke to each server about where they’re from, how they like England and if they have family here or back home. It just made for a really fun and relaxed night
Finally, our overall opinion
We’d definitely go back. There’s a great mix of traditional Thai dishes and specials that offer a bit more than the usual curries. But if you’re a die-hard fan of Thai street food, it’s probably not the place for you. The beauty of Mango Tree is that it offers up something different. Even better, they often have great deals on Toptable, so you can book in to enjoy the food and save yourself a pretty penny too.
Oh, and the doggy bag larb? We enjoyed it for dinner the next day. I definitely recommend you give it a go!
Mango Tree London | 46 Grosvenor Place SW1X 7EQ | 0207 823 1888