Freelance writer and photographer who has contributed to UKTV, Expedia, Hotels.com and USA Today and lives in West London.
Published October 16th 2012
Great value pan-Asian food 10 minute's walk from Hyde Park
The Banana Tree is on Westbourne Grove in West London's Bayswater area, a thriving neighbourhood that's popular with tourists and locals. Visitors flock there in search of relatively cheap hotel beds in a central location that's a short walk from Hyde Park.
Hungry locals and tourists support a bewildering range of restaurants in Bayswater including Brazilian, Chinese and Middle Eastern. You'll find small independents there as well as the all-too-familiar big brands that are everywhere in London.
The Banana Tree is part of a small chain, still managed by its founder and head chef, William Chow. The flagship restaurant is in Soho, one of a total of six restaurants around central London. Forswearing a career as an architect, Chow opened his first small London restaurant serving food from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia in 1991.
Westbourne Grove is one of Bayswater's main thoroughfares, and the Banana Tree occupies a double fronted property at numbers 21 and 23. Its unassuming frontage incorporates picture windows offering entertaining views of this bustling street.
The interior has 120 covers and features lots of exposed brick, fashionably utilitarian lighting and a comfortable, canteen ambience with bench seating. It's the kind of informal place where you might find yourself sharing a table with friendly strangers.
The Express Lunch Menu, available on weekdays from noon to 7pm, offers set meals for as little as £5.75 (Autumn 2012). A range of noodle dishes include Aromatic Pho, available as chicken, beef or veggie duck with basil, mint, pak choy and beansprouts in a rich stock. Express Meal Set dishes such as Tamarind Spicy Aubergine or Crispy Chicken in Sweet Lime and Mango Sauce come with glass noodle salad and steamed jasmine rice.
The main menu includes dishes like Seafood Kari Santan Melayu, tiger prawns, tilapia and fishcakes cooked in Malaysian red curry paste, and Char Grilled Blackened Chilli Beef, slices of beef in dark soy, palm sugar, garlic, ground spices and, of course, chilli, accompanied by a chilli and mango salsa.
There's a Sweet Tooth menu with some exotic choices such as Balinese Pulut Hitam, coconut ice cream served with warm black glutinous rice pudding cooked with pandan leaves, or Coconut Stuffed Green Thai Pancakes.
If you're in the mood to roll out the boat, try some of the cocktails. Enjoy a Peachy Mango Bellini, or a Dirty Thai Guy, that's rum, Cointreau, lime, nutmeg and lemongrass. Miss out the cocktails and two can eat dinner at the Banana Tree for under £40.