It’s no secret how much I adore Asian food, so when Banana Tree, a chain that specialises in food from Indochina, opened up a few doors down from where I work I was delighted. I was even more delighted when they got in touch recently to ask me to test it out to celebrate Thai New Year!
I decided to take my mum, sister and long suffering boyfriend, and we went on Tuesday night for an early dinner (as it’s just next to my work). I’ve broken it down into bite sized critiques below, including how easy it is to eat there if you’re a Slimming World-er like me!
The exterior of my local Banana Tree (it’s a chain although you wouldn’t realise it when you’re there) stands out immediately from its surroundings, and the interior is decorated very well. I love a bit of exposed brick! On walking through the door I was greeted promptly (see below for what I thought about the service) and seated at one of their stylised tables – which instead of being a table and chair situation are more like square holes in a raised section of the restaurant with a table in the middle. The idea is that you sit around the edge of it on cushions. I liked the seating, and it felt different and exotic, I would say though that it’s not the most elegant to get into if you’re wearing a dress! The music choice was good, low key and not too obtrusive, and they have those fancy old fashioned light bulbs which give the whole restaurant a great ambience. Even though I was there early, at 6pm, there were a couple of other tables in, and the music and noise from the kitchen gave the whole place a nice atmosphere.
Their menu is impressive, and has a great selection. In my normal life in PR I actually work with a few clients based in Indochina so I’m relatively familiar with the food! I’m not vegetarian or gluten intolerant but if I was I’d have been really pleased, not only do they have a separate veggie menu, but the menu has all veggie and gluten free dishes marked! They have a variety of regional specialities to choose from, as well as a section of ‘Char Grilled Meats’, starters, noodle dishes, soups, puddings and sides. There’s also the option to turn any of the grilled meats or regional specialities into a ‘combo dish’ where by you get your rice and a salad for a really reasonable price!
I opted for the Steamed Fish Amok for starters and then the Blackened Chilli Pork with a side of steamed Jasmine Rice as a side, and other dishes ordered around the table included Phad Thai, Double Cooked Crispy Pork and the Tamarind Spicy Aubergine!
They’ve got a good selection of drinks too, with a great Happy Hour deal where by you buy a cocktail and get a second one of the same for free (or buy each for half price depending on how you look at it!). What I was more impressed by though is the fact that they had fresh lime juice as an option! Now, I can’t drink all of the sugary cocktails I used to love because I’m following Slimming World, and wanted to save my ‘syns’ for the food, so my drink of choice is always gin, soda and fresh lime. Usually when I ask a waiter or bar tender to put as much fresh lime in as possible I get slightly perplexed stares but at Banana Tree I was offered some fresh lime juice (not cordial) on the side! It made a great change and set the evening off really well.
The quality of the food was great, and their portions are big! Make sure you’re hungry when you go! There were great flavours in all of our dishes, and they were enjoyed across the board. As a foodie there are little touches that I love when I go to Asian restaurants in this country, and homemade sauces is a particular favourite. The Banana Tree homemade satay sauce is delicious! I only had a little try but it’s nice to see something so authentic for a change!
Our waiter Nonu was brilliant, he seated me straight away when I got there and we were never without food, drink, or prawn crackers. He handled any of the questions we had about the food or the menu perfectly, and did so with a smile! The food came out quickly, and even when we needed a five minute break between courses there was no issue in terms of timing or food being cold.
Slimming World Friendly?
Now this is a tricky one, because as with any meal out on Slimming World you need to study the menu and it’s a case of making the best choices to fit within your syn allowance. I had had a look at the menu beforehand online, and was sure that there were plenty of options for me to pick from. I didn’t make my mind up until the night though, because I had no idea what I’d fancy! The great thing about the menu at Banana Tree is that they go into quite a lot of deal for each dish, setting out what it has in it, which makes it quite easy to guess the syn value. But as with all Asian food there are hidden ingredients which could push you over your syns. I wouldn’t go there expecting to stay entirely within your syns, although depending on whether you have a starter and a main, and what you go for it’s entirely possible, but you won’t go too far outside them and if you’re comfortable flexi-synning like me then you’ve really got nothing to worry about!
Phad Thai is always quite a safe option if you’re unsure, as Rice Noodles are free and so you’re really just synning the sauce! I normally go for Phad Thai but I went for something a bit different this time around. I am confident that I either just hit 15 syns and that if I did go over it was only but a little bit, and I can make up for another day. The Fish Amok is made with coconut milk and so I’m guessing it at around 8 syns and the Blackened Chilli Pork is char grilled so the only syns come from any oil and sugar in the marinade (I didn’t have the sauce that went with it) so I’m putting it at 4-6 syns. I had 3 syns for my gin and the jasmine rice was free, so all in all the meal was about 15-17 syns in total! Give or take a couple of syns for error and I’m pretty safe. There are lower syn things on the menu I’m sure, so take a look and pick what works for you!
I was really pleased with Banana Tree, and will definitely be going back! I’m lucky because we also have Deliveroo in Oxford and they deliver from Banana Tree too…I can now enjoy delicious food from Indochina in the comfort of my own home! I’d highly recommend it, whether you’re on Slimming World or not…everyone I took with me enjoyed themselves and there was something on the menu for even the pickiest eater.
*I was asked to review this restaurant by Banana Tree and part of my bill was compensated but all views are my own. I was not paid to write this review.