If the Leaky Cauldron was a real pub, you’d go there immediately right? Well when J.K Rowling slyly mentioned a restaurant that lives and breathes in the city of London, well we lined up to see what our favourite author was eating.
The Mango Tree, name dropped by J.K’s alter ego Robert Galbraith in The Silkworm, is a modern luxury Asian restaurant, now so popular from its quick reference that the Belgravia branch has added a second counter in Harrods.
‘They do reasonably good food,’ said Matthew. ‘Thai. It’s not the Mango Tree, but it’s all right.’
Just minutes from Victoria, I took my friend Rachel to try out this talked about eatery on a thundering Tuesday evening. The restaurant was much larger than I’d expected, so much so that I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly it filled up so early on in the week, with a handful of large tables quickly claimed by groups of tourists, locals and celebrating girl gangs.
The décor was simple, half reminding me of my local Chinese takeaway and half of the authentic places I’d been in Thailand… although probably not the wall of fame by the toilets.
We started with a cocktail off a rather extensive drinks menu, a Green Fog for Rachel and a Hibiscus Flower Fizz for myself.
The Green Fog looked as refreshing as it did vibrant, combining Tanqueray No.10 gin, elderflower liqueur, elderflower cordial, fresh apple juice and fresh cucumber.
My floral flute mixed hibiscus syrup and champagne, poured over an edible flower. It was pleasantly not as sweet as it looked; top marks to our waiter who recommended our first round.
Equal to the drinks menu, we were both rather overwhelmed by the choice of food, section upon section of fried, curried and cold dishes… and that’s forgetting the Chef’s Specials. Rather than even attempting to pick from a selection of dim sum, I went for the platter, beautifully presented in a traditional bamboo steamer.
Six different pieces were equally unique in flavour and appearance. A vegetarian dumping and prawn and chive combination were not bad but not memorable. Yet each time I went back with my chopsticks for another go at the dim sum roulette, the picked dumpling was more delicious than the last.
The bright green mixed seafood and black truffle prawn were both expectedly moreish, the lobster and coriander following with an even more pleasant taste. Yet the winner was of course the Chilean sea bass, topped with none other than a flake of gold leaf… a literal medal for its winning filling.
As I picked at my platter, dipping into soy and sweet chilli sauce, Rachel tucked into a som tum salad, a spicy cold bowl of green papaya, cherry tomatoes and long green beans, topped with peanuts and hot tamarind sauce. I wasn’t brave enough to taste the heat but from the empty bowl that quickly appeared I could tell that it didn’t disappoint!
For her main, Rachel ordered the pla neung nam jim, a steamed Japanese sea bass with spicy garlic chilli and lemongrass sauce. Again it was presented in bamboo, charmingly lain across a bed of Chinese kale. The fish fell apart at the touch of a fork, making a delicious healthy dish for any seafood lover.
I on the other hand was too tempted by the sirloin panang curry, served with sticky jasmine rice. Thinly sliced, the beef was soft and packed with flavour, drowning in rich red spicy sauce made with coconut milk, basil and aubergine.
Although a little spicier than I would have liked, it was too delicious to resist and so in true foodie fashion I ate every morsel, cooling my tongue with a cocktail that was equally enticing.
Mixing two of my favourite flavours, a Vanilla Breeze poured champagne and vanilla cognac over a sugar cube, fizzing up to release more sweetness with each sip. It was a perfect introduction into the sweeter side of Mango Tree’s menu.
Now this restaurant is famous for two things. Firstly J.K’s appreciate name drop and secondly a 3D chocolate pudding that quite literally melts before your eyes. Now my blogger brain told me to order the melting sphere (albeit maybe a little 2015), which I'd drooled over reading The Foodaholic's review… but my eyes couldn’t resist the sound of a mango crème brûlée, a twist on my favourite dessert. With a side of pistachio biscotti and seemingly named after the restaurant itself, it was a winning choice and so my sight beat the blogger mind-set.
There were no regrets. The sugar topping was perfectly smashable and the filling, although a little thick, was fruity and creamy. I also couldn’t resist ordering some champagne sorbet, because well why the hell not. It wasn’t as fizzy or alcoholic as I’d expected and instead I was left with more of a grape flavour.
Instead I had serious sorbet envy when Rachel’s dessert arrived, the ponlamai ruam mit, which translated to a generous platter of exotic fruit, served with chilli and lemongrass sorbet. It was ridiculously good, a heated lemon flavour met with immediate cooling ice.
Before our meal I’d been puzzled by the mixed reviews found online… beaming comments from fellow foodies yet some negative remarks lowering it to just less than 4 stars. Perhaps the prices are a little high but in this neighbourhood you’ll be lucky to find authentic tasting food this good for any less. So instead of moaning like us British lot like to do, I recommend that you bring your big purse and wear your big pants, because this is a feast worth investing in.
Our meal at Mango Tree was complimentary but in no way are my views or tastebuds affected.