I was invited to go along to my local Banana Tree in West Hampstead on Friday night to taste their Thai dishes in celebration of Thai New Year, or Songkran. New Year in April, you say? It’s certainly different! There is a perfectly sensible explanation though, which you can read over on their blog.
Head chef and founder William Chow opened his first restaurant in 1991 and 25 years later they now have eight restaurants. Banana Tree showcases food from Indochina so you’ll find dishes from Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore on their menu. They also have a fairly extensive vegetarian and vegan menu too. We’ve travelled to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore so we were looking forward to tasting their food!
Our reservation was for 9:30pm and it was very lively when we arrived. Banana Tree is the perfect place to unwind after a long week. Although it’s Thai New Year, there wasn’t a special menu however our waitress kindly explained all the Thai dishes on the menu. We ordered a bottle of Prosecco, which goes really well with Asian food, and some prawn crackers with chilli sauce to munch on whilst we decided on which dishes to go for.
After perusing the menu, we settled on the Fresh Indo Herb Wraps to start (yes, yes…not Thai but they sounded too delicious not to try) and the Chicken Satay. The wraps come with instructions on how to eat them – you take a little spring roll, a bit of coriander and/or mint and some of the pickles, then wrap it in the lettuce leaf and dip it into the Nuoc Cham sauce. It was amazing! The sauce was so fragrant and absolutely delicious… prepare for messy fingers though.
The chicken satay was really good too. Sometimes I find that the chicken can be quite dry but this chicken satay was moist and perfectly cooked. The satay sauce had a kick of chilli too! It was also accompanied with sticky rice wrapped in bamboo and some pickles and cucumber to help with that chilli kick.
For our mains we chose three Thai dishes to share (which was far too much food!) – the Gaeng Keo Wan Green Thai Curry with chicken, the Roast Duck Curry and Phad Thai with chicken. We also ordered steamed jasmine rice to accompany the curries.
The Gaeng Keo Wan Green Thai Curry was fabulous. The sauce was a good consistency and perfectly spiced. The Roast Duck Curry was also really tasty and I loved the wood ear mushrooms in both dishes!
The Phad Thai also came with instructions on how to mix the ingredients together. I left that task to my husband and as you can see, some of the beansprouts didn’t quite make it.
The Phad Thai was very good – not too sweet as they sometimes can be. We thoroughly enjoyed all the dishes, however we did order far too much and we were really, really full. We weren’t going to order dessert, however our waitress suggested we try the Coconut Stuffed Thai Green Pancakes. How could we say no?
The pancakes were nice however there was too much coconut stuffing for our liking, which made it a bit dry. The vanilla ice-cream was lovely and worked well with the pancakes but they were quite heavy. Or perhaps we shouldn’t have eaten so much for starters and mains!
We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and sampling all the Thai dishes on offer. A very big ‘Khob Khun Kah’ to Banana Tree for inviting us along!