Nevertheless, my curiosity was aroused when I was invited to review Banana Tree's new Soho branch. After all, it does no harm to challenge one's prejudices, especially when the first £60 of the bill is free. I know some of you are sceptical of freebie invite reviews, but in this instance I dined anonymously with two civilian mates, and only unmasked myself as a blogger when the bill arrived.
|The Legendary Rendang|
The Legendary Rendang (£9.80) was probably the pick of the bunch, with its melt-in-the-mouth beef and rich coconutty sauce. It could've done with having more zing, but still, it was much better than the rendang I recently had at Tukdin, an ultra authentic Malaysian joint. It's just a shame there wasn't more of it. Sticking with Malaysian classics, the Kajang chicken satay (£8.50/6 pcs) was well marinated and had a nice char. Unfortunately, the chicken was a bit dry and overcooked, which was a shame as the peanut sauce was very good.
|Braised Pork Belly|
The atmosphere was buzzy and the service attentive. Together with some rice, a couple of rounds of beer and service, the bill came to £86 between three, which is roughly £29/head. Notwithstanding the fact that the first £60 of the bill was comped, this is quite expensive for what is a casual dining experience. That said, you can 'combo up' your main course, which makes it better value, although that does discourage sharing.
Despite my deep-rooted antipathy to pan-Asian eateries, Banana Tree wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Nothing was actively bad, and there were signs of promise in the beef rendang and the braised pork belly. Yet there was little va-va-voom (that's a new phrase for Food Blog Bingo) and to be honest, it isn't really my kind of place. Mind you, what I think is pretty much irrelevant, as this casual restaurant was never less than full in the hour or so that I was there.
Banana Tree, 103 Wardour Street, London W1F 0UQ (Tel: 020-7437-1351)
Nearest stations: Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road