Tucked away in a quiet corner of Manchester’s Castlefield area is a tasty hidden gem. Although I’d often heard the name, The Banyan Tree, mentioned I’d never before been lucky enough to sample its menu.
Taking its name from a South Asian tree used as a meeting place for traditional villages, the restaurant has a distinctive cozy feel. With little pockets of seating areas filled with groups happily chatting away over drinks and delicious looking food, it’s needless to say we couldn’t wait to take our seats.
First off, the service was second to none. Our waiter, Kevin, was fast and effecient, gave excellent recommendations, and most importantly appeared to love his job and was happy to help – which was refreshing.
Settling down we went straight for the impressive cocktail menu and my eyes were quickly drawn to the raspberry margarita, while my plus one went for the establishment’s very own Banyan lager. The drinks came quickly and I was pleased I’d been brave and steered away from my normal espresso martini as the margarita was definitely a highlight. The Banyan lager is a perfect session beer, and great to have alongside a meal – particularly a curry, as we later discovered.
Looking over the menu we were spoilt for choice and decided to first try the spicy marinated olives and warm pitta bread with dhal pate and sambaal relish. For such a simple starter this packed a real punch and took us by surprise, setting the tone for the rest of the meal – we now knew we were in for some real treats. We could have easily eaten this all over again but we held ourselves back as it was time for our mains.
A fusion of great classics with a refined Asian twist made choosing the next course almost impossible.
I quickly found myself torn between the North Atlantic cod and chips with lemon and chili tartar sauce and the lentil and dahl burger with onion bahji, seasoned shoestring fries and bloody mary ketchup.
But after much deliberation the burger sounded just too good to pass up.
My plus one was almost giddy when he heard of their range of curry specials that night and just couldn’t resist going for the one that came with the warning ‘this is the fiery one’ – taking it as a culinary challenge.
The food came beautifully presented on wooden tablets and had us enviously eyeing up each other’s choices. My lentil and dhal burger was amazing and for someone who is not a fan of ketchup I found I could have easily eaten their bloody mary version by the bucket load.
The king prawn bhuna was simply exceptional. It certainly packed a punch and it was a good job the Banyan lager was on hand to quench the burn, but unlike some of the hotter curries out there, this had the big flavours to match. And they didn’t skimp on the succulent (and huge!) king prawns either – delicious.
By this time we were feeling so full we almost needed a lie down but then the desert menu was placed in front of us… After two fantastic courses how could we not sample a third? Especially when there was sticky toffee pudding.
We were a little disappointed when we were told it had run out; the couple opposite us could be seen tucking into the last tasty piece.
Unsure of what to have instead we took waiter Kevin’s advice and went for his favourite – the ginger pudding with ice-cream.
All I can say is thank goodness we were beaten to the sticky toffee!
Warm, sweet and a little bit fiery, the ginger pudding was not something to be missed and although my plus one said he would only be having a bite of the desert he quickly polished off half.
The Banyan Tree is definitely one of Manchester’s best kept secrets… but not for too long as I intend to tell everyone just how good it is.