The Banana Leaf
7 Lower Addiscombe Road
Phone:- 0208 688 0297
The Banana Leaf is a local Indian restaurant that serves traditional South Indian cuisine. It has been open since 1988, and has received many awards for its cuisine; such as winning the London Curry Chef of the year in 2002 and being a national finalist in the Curry Chef of the Year Competition in 2002. It comprises a bright airy restaurant and small bar on the ground floor, together with additional seating in the basement. It offers both dine in and takeaway.
Eva, I and Kajsa (Eva’s daughter, who is visiting us from Sweden) visited it on Monday evening and had a very good meal there.
The restaurant does not follow the “tradition” favoured by many other Indian restaurants; by decorating itself in the dark reds more appropriate, in my opinion, for brothels. Instead it has opted for a pleasing colour co-ordinated style which is both light, cheerful and refreshing. The top half of the walls are painted light yellow (and are decorated with award certificates for the cuisine), the bottom half being exposed brickwork. The tables are laid with well pressed fresh white tablecloths and mint green linen napkins. Each table has a single artificial red rose in a small vase. The ceiling has the old fashioned rotary fans, infinitely more pleasant than air-conditioning, which add atmosphere.
In the far left hand corner of the restaurant is a small bar which has a few stools on which customers, waiting for their table or takeaway, can sit and enjoy a drink; whilst admiring the collection of silver trophies (won for cuisine) proudly displayed on the bar.
The background music is traditional Indian, about which I am ashamed to say I know nothing, it adds atmosphere but it is not intrusive.
When we arrived we were warmly greeted by one of the many waiters. It being a Monday night and late (9:45PM), it was not busy so we were able to sit where we pleased.
The restaurant offers an extensive menu comprising familiar Indian dishes, such as; Balti, Madras and Korma. More importantly, in keeping with the regional Indian emphasis, dishes such as Dosai (crispy stuffed pancakes), Vadai (doughnut savoury snacks), Goan and spicy marinated lamb predominate.
The service is attentive, friendly, efficient and dignified. The food is attractively presented, and arrives at the same time.
I started with a dish of lamb, potato and herbs formed into two large oval shapes; sealed with a crispy flour based coating and deep fried. Absolutely delicious, the combination of meat, potato and herbs was well balanced; the dish could be a light meal in itself.
Eva ordered a masala dosai, a crispy pancake stuffed with spiced potato and onion, for her starter. The length of the dosai is approximately 24 inches, and is designed to be shared by two people by cutting it in half. The chef, seeing that there were three of us (having ensured that the filling was evenly stuffed along its entire length), served the dish cut into three equal portions. It was excellent, and well complemented by the coconut chutney; Kajsa, Eva and I all enjoyed it.
My main course was chilli chicken, chicken breast cooked with ginger and fresh green chillies. The chef will vary the strength according to your taste, but I would suggest that this dish is suited to those with a palette (such as mine) that appreciates spicy food. That being said, any fool can put excess spices in a dish that will burn your mouth but will not add value to your eating experience. I am happy to say that the chef achieved heat but with taste and flavour, ie the combination of ingredients were properly balanced so that not one individual element dominated the taste.
Eva chose king prawn korma, prawns in a mild coconut based sauce, which she was very pleased with. I would note that the prawns were plentiful and king size; not the rather small sad shrimps offered by other establishments.
Kajsa took chicken in a sauce which was a pleasing combination of banana and cream, she was happy with her choice which had both a pleasant taste and texture.
I would like to add that, unlike some Indian restaurants which serve sauces that have a layer of fat floating on the surface, not one of the dishes presented to us contained such an abomination.
We shared our side dishes which consisted of boiled plain rice and yellow rice (both fluffy and not glutinous), together with potato dry masala (dry cooked spiced potato cubes) which was very tasty.
I rounded off my meal with a couple of Jamesons. Kajsa had an chocolate ice cream sundae, Eva (like the dosai) was stuffed and ate a small chocolate mint.
The overall meal, which included one bottle of very good Chablis, and a couple of glasses of lemonade, came to £66 including the suggested 10% service charge before tip; very good value.
Definitely one of the better Indian restaurants, well worth a visit by people who want a good meal. Lager drinking yobs in search of a mouth burning vindaloo, who tend to gravitate to other establishments, are not welcome, wanted or indeed evident among the clientele. An ideal place to bring your family and loved ones.