My brief was relatively simple: a restaurant a short walk from Victoria station. I don't know the area at all so I asked around and got some slightly depressing suggestions - ASK or Pizza Express right over the road from the station. I have nothing against ASK or Pizza Express, I just wanted something a little, well, better.
Finally my work foody friend came to the rescue with the suggestion of The Mango Tree. She has a friend who married a Thai girl and that is where they celebrated their marriage. I got there a bit early, so settled in with the menu and the best gosh darn prawn crackers I have ever tried. And some fizzy water, because I have a cold and thought too much booze was a bad idea. The decor is interesting - it's your standard big light room with wood panelled feature walls etc, but they seem to have gone gung-ho for Halloween and the lovely strelitzia and lily flower arrangements were draped with cobwebs, there were axes and spiders on all the walls and a row of jack o'lanterns twinkled with tealights in the window.
I'd already been horrified by the prices and made a partial recovery by the time my friends arrived. I think putting all of the expensive wines at the front is a novel way to go - I suspect many people order the first half-way reasonable one they clock, rather than combing through to the back for the house wines. Fortunately they were happy to let me order for the table, because I had already spotted several things I wanted to eat, and I wasn't much bothered by their tastes.
We started with Thai fishcakes. They had the pleasing bouncy texture I like, but I felt they were a little bland, or there was something missing in the flavouring. Could have been because of my cold though. A starter from the specials menu I thought was more successful - a chicken liver salad. The dressing was vibrant, the livers were flavoursome, it was a very good dish.
For mains, we shared a red duck curry - which was delicious and allowed me to show off a bit explaining that the little round green things are in fact a type of aubergine. The belly pork with Chinese broccoli and oyster sauce could have been more succulent, but was very well-flavoured, and the seafood with black bean sauce was just wonderful. So many big, fat scallops and prawns! Complemented but not padded out by fish and calamari. The glutinous rice was much stickier than I have had it before - plain steamed would have been a better choice.
We braved pudding. Some very interesting icecream flavours, but my friends both had a layered banana and coconut pudding, and I had lemongrass infused custard. Independent verification agreed with me that my custard had not the slightest hint of lemongrass flavour, but the vanilla in it was nice and the texture was lovely.
Fortunately when I completed the online booking form I ticked the "yes please" special offers box, which gave a 50% discount on the food bill. A very good thing, as with the discount (and a few bottles of fizzy water, 2 glasses of wine and a couple of coffees, service included) the bill cleared 70 quid. Definitely worth going back - but only on a mealdeal!