Founder and head chef, William Chow, opened his first 36 seater ‘Indo-Chinese’ cafe in West London 21 years ago, leading to Banana Tree, which currently has 6 locations across London. I’ve found myself at Banana Tree Soho several times now – generally not as a first choice but as more of a backup once I get told I’ll have to wait two hours for a table everywhere else in Soho. You can’t book unless you’re a group of 6 or more but I’ve never had to wait more than a few minutes.
The menu is made up of dishes and specialities from the Indochina region, the lemongrass growing countries of South East Asia that include Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and the peninsula of Malaysia and Singapore. The decor at the Banana Tree Soho branch is very industrial and there are some Wagamama style long communal table as well as more intimate ones. It looks cool but prepare yourself for some pretty uncomfortable seating.
Banana Tree’s Kajang Satay comes with the most authentic satay sauce I’ve had in London with 6 sticks for £8.50 or 10 for £12.50 and comes with steamed palm leaf rice and cucumber & red onion trimmings as you’d get in Malaysia. The Green Papaya Salad (£5.90) is also very authentic although maybe not as hot as you’d get it in Thailand.
There’s plenty of choice on the menu, from wok fried or soup based noodle dishes to curries, stews and char grilled meats. Their Legendary Rendang (£10.80) is made with prime lean beef slow cooked for up to 4 hours until a thick dry fragrant sauce is achieved. It’s a very good rendang with a very rich sauce but I find the meat quite dry and it doesn’t beat my Nan’s.
Keep an eye out for the sides as they’re great value with Noodles with Bean Sprouts & Dark Soy for just £3.70 and Stir Fried Pak Choy in Garlic for £4.50. There’s also a combo option which gives you a sesame glass noodle salad, sweet corn cakes, spicy crackers and steamed jasmine rice for an extra £3.25 if you order a regional speciality, curry or stew.
Banana Tree is one of several small chains along with Busaba Eathai and Wahaca producing a high level of cuisine and good value for money. I know chains aren’t cool and you should support the independents and I agree with that, (especially when it comes to coffee) but if a chain is doing it this well then there’s no argument.
|Chicken Satay (6)||£8.50|
|Green Papaya Salad||£5.90|
|Tamarind Crispy Fish||£8.50|
|Egg Fried Rice||£3.30|
|Lychee Mojito x 2||£6.40 each|
103 Wardour Street,
London W1F 0UQ
Bookings taken for 6 or more people
Monday – Saturday
12:00 – 23:00
12:00 – 22:30