The Mango Tree Café

And the return of the silent movie!

The Mango Tree Café is a misnomer. I saw no evidence of a mango tree, and it is definitely not café food. What I did find was a cosy restaurant at the Thapae Gate end of Loi Kroh Road, which has two large TV screens showing silent movies with Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin being the top draw cards. (Let me tell you that this slapstick humour is just as rib-tickling for Thais as it is for farangs. Madame is still laughing!)

The restaurant is a single shop-house, tending towards even being called ‘funky’ with art by Alain, the Chiang Mai resident French painter on the walls. Tiled floors and bright throw-overs on the tables brighten the place and the atmosphere is cheerful.

The restaurant is under new ownership, but director Philip Harris is no newcomer to running restaurants, having been the driving force behind the Bahn Thai restaurant in London for 20 years, voted the best Thai restaurant outside Thailand by Newsweek and Gourmet magazine. (As an aside, I realised I had eaten there in 1986!)

Philip, once voted as one of the UK’s most promising new chefs, has revamped the old Mango Tree menu adding many items and some fusion cuisine items. It begins with 3 pages of breakfasts, with sets between 95-195 baht, or build it yourself with individual items generally around B. 20-40. These are followed by a page of coffees and teas and fresh juices.

Next up is a page of snacks and single dishes (B. 150-245) with egg mayo sandwiches at the bottom end ranging up to ostrich steak sandwiches served in Focaccia bread and fries at the top. Soups come next, all at B. 95 with a warning that they are large servings and, “You are advised against ordering anything further until you have finished your soup,” says the menu.

Two pages of burgers are offered next (B. 100-195) including veggie-burgers. There are 7 salads at around B 105 with again the warning to wait before ordering anything else - the servings are generous. The western menu finishes on the next page with NZ Ling fish (B. 195), NZ mussels and pies served with mashed potatoes and imported NZ peas (B. 150).

The Thai menu commences with a page explaining the concept behind the items and then two pages of salads and snacks (B. 95-195). Spicy soups are next, generally around B. 100 with all the usual favourites and a few new ones such as seaweed soup.

Two pages of curries around B. 120 are followed by fried and grilled items (B. 95-245). Rice and Noodles are next (B. 15-135) and then desserts, beverages and beers (including many imported brands) and wines from around B. 600 a bottle.

Philip presented us with a selection of his dishes, including a NZ Ling fish wrapped in pandanus leaves, which was very tasty and an interesting change from the usual chicken variety of this dish, and then followed with the spicy salad of smoked salmon. This is a fusion dish with the imported salmon incorporated in the Thai salad and was just simply sensational. I could have stopped right there, I didn’t want to lose the taste!

However, Philip was not going to let us stop there. A prawn satay was next, which was excellent, as was the grilled ostrich steak and finally the Ling fish fillets with a chilli/garlic woon sen noodle. Again superb.

The Dining Out team walked away from the Mango Tree Café very impressed. The fusion dish of spicy salad of smoked salmon was sensational and I have raved about this item to anyone who would stand still long enough. The surroundings are not noteworthy, but the food most certainly is. Not cheap, but good value when you look at the size of the servings. Go on Sundays if you want a large roast (one diner commented, “Do you think I’m an American?” when he saw the serving), but go at any time for some excellent and well thought out cuisine. Highly recommended.

Mango Tree Café, 8/2-3 Loi Kroh Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 208 292, open daily 7 a.m. to 10.30 p.m.