Sunday, 6 November 2011

Banana Tree Soho – The Blandest Meal of the Century

I seem to be getting a lot of invites to try out new restaurants recently. Most of then I turn down because even though they are free I don’t want to eat at those establishments.
I was in two minds whether or not to accept the invitation to eat at the new Banana Tree in Soho.
I’d tried the branch in Angel on one of the Tube Strike Mondays. Ahhhh I miss those days, the only good thing of working over the other side of London. C’mon you greedy tube drivers, I think it’s time for some more pointless strikes so I can have some more days off work.

I was not impressed with the concept nor the food at the Angel branch. I thought it was for people who were shit scared of Asian food and wanted a dumbed down version to get their chops around it.
Finally I relented and mid week we wandered down to the Soho branch with our £60 voucher expecting to get through about half of it. How wrong I was.

The neo industrial look is the matter of course these days, everyone including shops are jumping on the band wagon. I’ll be delighted when someone finally doesn’t do it.
We ordered a beer and a cocktail and 6 of the satay sticks to get us going. The sticks were ok. Nice charring, but really not much taste on the chicken itself. The peanut sauce was pretty good, and I wished I had kept it on the table for the following courses.

We began ordering. Well we had £60 to get through. The Papaya Salad came first and after trying it made me remember why I should not have relented to this freebie offer. Unbelievable it actually had no taste at all. The dressing was non existent and the papaya had no crunch to it. Soft and floopy. I felt really sorry for the fruit to end its life on a plate as part of a poor excuse for a salad.

The Roasted Duck in Hoisin Sauce actually wasn’t that bad. The meat was juicy enough, but the sauce was too loose and a bit over powering.

Next up was the Char Grilled Chicken Bakar Java. The menu said the chicken was marinated in an array of Javanese aromatic spices, grilled slowly to perfection. I’ve no idea what their idea of perfection is, but it was far from mine. The chicken had some nice charring on it, but it was dry and a tad tough. I’ve no idea how long it had been marinating for, but it obviously was not long enough. Those Javanese spices failed to shine through.

I had this served with a Nasi Goreng, which turned out to be a bland egg fried rice. That’s two dull Nasi Gorengs I’ve tasted recently, and both have been a poor substitute for the real deal.
Amazingly in the end we managed to spend £59 on really not much food and a few drinks. But then again we are in Soho.

Banana Tree is what it is really. A pan Asian chain restaurant serving up watered down and bland food to the masses in neo industrial surroundings. It’s gonna make its owners a hell of a lot of money.

Banana Tree on Urbanspoon


Mr Noodles said...

Not a dissimilar experience to my own, except your choices seem even blander! Like other chains such as Ping Pong, I only hope that Banana Tree acts as a gateway to the true delights of the East by encouraging diners to check out places that do this food justice.

Anonymous said...

I am not a fan of chains either, but hand on heart, I cannot find a better place serving such authentic Rendang and excellent Satay in the current Malaysian/Indonesian dining scene.(Although Puji Puji did have that level of quality when they were operating in Oriental City, Collindale all those years ago) Perhaps I was just lucky with these two dishes but rumour has it that they do a good Laksa too. They do seem to be trying hard to be different though, as I have yet to find Abon Sapi appearing in any menus in London. I believe it is a positive thing to have this new kid on the block as I love the vibrant and electric atmosphere on the night of my visit, which one seldom finds in most ethnic restaurants.

Mzungu said...

Mr N - Let's hope people can wander down towards China Town and they'll be able to find much better and cheaper alternatives.

Anom - Looks like you had a lucky night. But that's the 2nd Banana Tree restaurant I've been into and both were pretty bad.

Anonymous said...

To Chinatown?? Come on, get real!! You may like it rough and raw, but I am not willing to be directed by some hostile server to dine in a rancid basement and have no say in the matter. And to add to insult, at the end I am given a bill that I cannot comprehend, and when queried they get all stroppy and I get all timid!! Why can't they smile a bit more and make their customer feel a bit more welcomed. I am often ashamed to be Chinese when I do go with my Western colleagues on the rare occassion when we do decide to go Chinese. For some reason this kind of hostle behaviour only happens in Chinese restaurants and people like yourself are encouraging it by recommending them so highly. How can you slag off Banana Tree when they are providing such a good refreshing alternative to the dining scene as your previous commentator had highlighted. It seems like comfort, cleanliness and ambience is not part of your dining criteria. If so you should make it clear in your blog. You presented a poor, inaccurate review of Soho and there are hints of sensationalism for the sake of it. Your preconcieve idea about chains, although valid in general, had overwelmed your judgement, I believe, as I have been to the Soho branch for lunch on several occassions now and they have always delivered on all fronts.

Stanley Chan

Mzungu said...

Stanley - If you like your food dumbed down and tasting nothing like it should be, then yes Banana Tree is for you. Me personally I like my food to actually taste of something. If that happens to be in a small eatery with plastic chairs and a few marks on the wall then so be it.
Have you been to China Town recently as there are some pretty good places to eat these days.
Not all restaurants push you down to eat in a rancid basement. But if you do not want to eat there, you can always walk out.
But you have a point about bad service sometimes in Chinese restaurants. No idea why, as in the motherland the service is pretty damn good.
It looks like we are into different things, but thank you for stopping by and giving me a right earful.