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Banyan Tree Reviewed

Jonathan Schofield has one of the best casual dining meals of the year

Written by . Published on December 18th 2012.


Banyan Tree Reviewed

SURPRISE is one of my favourite five abstract nouns.

When it arrives a cartoonish little man with a happy face dances a jig in my subconscious, rings a small bell, and says, 'heh, heh'.

I like that little man.

Last week he had a whole team of bell-ringers with him. I was in the Banyan Tree and the food was a jolly clarion of flavours chiming mellifluously across my palate. Ding dong. The interior was a mish mash of mix and match which in the winter sun was as attractive as a patio with a sea view. Or in this case a very handsome St George's Church. 

You get spiced up potato (aloo) and spinach (saag) inside a Spanish tortilla that is so light and right it could be used in The Library Theatre's current production of The Arabian Nights as a magic carpet. 

The Banyan Tree has made a virtue of lying just outside the magic circle of the city centre. It is so firmly 'neighbourhood' it should have copyrighted the name. Of course it's a bit late for that in Manchester given the 'NYC eaterie' recently opened in Spinningfields, but people walking in were greeted by their first names and asked if they wanted the 'usual'. Posters advertised quiz nights and other events; the bar even has its own football team, Banyan Munich. 

InteriorInterior

The trick is to be perfectly in tune with the locals. The Banyan Tree knows the exact qualities the residents around here require. It knows what makes them tick.

The Britannia Mills area of Hulme, strung either side of the Bridgewater Canal, is a proper urban village. Cut off from the city centre by the extension of the Mancunian Way the apartment dwellers rely on the amenity that the Banyan Tree provides.

View of St George'sView of St George's

The bar's patrons are what the city council wanted when they encouraged the growth of city centre living: this is an urbane urban crew often with decent or at least, interesting jobs, often self-employed, with good middle class sensibilities, and probably pretty well travelled. 

The residents are so typical they could have a 'soap' written about them, called M15 - aside from the fact they've already had about 25 'soaps' written about them and their UK type, starting way back with Cold Feet.

The estate agents have responded to the demographic and have ditched the name 'Hulme' and now market the area as 'Castlefield'. Crass but logical, as is the way with estate agents.

Aloo saag tortillaAloo saag tortilla

The Banyan Tree knows all this and artfully tickles the neighbourhoods' tastebuds with a clever combination of English, Asian and World cuisine. This could be a shocking muddle, but turns out to be a cartoonish little man with a happy face dancing a jig in the subconscious and ringng a small bell. 

The food is just about the best in casual dining I've had all year.

Bloody hell I tell you, the simple and slightly crazed aloo saag tortilla (£4.50) was good. You get spiced up potato (aloo) and spinach (saag) inside a Spanish tortilla that is so light and right it could be used in The Library Theatre's current production of The Arabian Nights as a magic carpet. 

The suet pudding (£9.75) with a chicken chilli filling came with superb chips and superb mushy peas. The suet could be called a cheat as it was vegetarian, but the glaze and consistency was so good, combined with a taste reminiscent of a really good bouillon, that all was forgiven. This worked with the chicken chilli like a dream and was brilliantly executed, and I mean brilliantly.

Suet in the sunSuet in the sun

A scrambled egg bagel with smoked salmon from the breakfast menu (£5.95) was good but not up to the surprise and quality of the tortilla and suet pudding. That's not to say don't buy it, just that it wasn't so interesting. Still the excellent consistency of the scrambled egg showed the dish had been looked after in the kitchen.  

Salmon and scrambled eggSalmon and scrambled egg

An apple cumble and custard, with berries for colour (£4.95) rounded off the food. The crumble was textured, sweet, with good consistency and again delivered with delicacy, not too heavy and never difficult to clear. 

Crumble and custardCrumble and custard

A pint of ok Banyan Tree branded Holts lager and moderate glasses of El Tesoro provided the liquid. 

For a neighbourhood bar, an urban village local, the Banyan Tree seems note perfect. The tortilla and suet will remain in my memory for a while when people talk about casual dining.

The place shows you don't have to have massive resources backing you up, you don't even need to be in a prime location, you just have to be good. 

Fortunately for me the Banyan Tree is more or less on my route home so I'll be popping in again to try something else, see if any bells ring. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL AND PAID FOR BY THE MAGAZINE. 

The Banyan Tree, Ellesmere Street, Manchester, M15 4JY.    

Rating: 14.5/20 

Food: 7.5/10 (tortilla 8, smoked salmon 7, suet pudding 8, apple crumble 7) Please yellow box below as well.
Service: 3/5
Ambience: 4/5

PLEASE NOTE: Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20, we get carried away.

Banyan MunichBanyan Munich

The Banyan TreeThe Banyan Tree

The Banyan TreeThe Banyan Tree

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22 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

MoregeousDecember 18th 2012.

Spot on about this place Jonathan. We've been redesigning a flat in the BoxWorks and have nipped in a few times when about to fall over from hunger. Lovely atmosphere, very chilled, welcoming staff and cracking food. The curries are recommended too :)

GordoDecember 18th 2012.

Pleased to see this place grow up so nicely.

user3805December 18th 2012.

They also serve really off the wall dishes like wild board burgers and roast cheshire squirrel (i s**t you not!!). The breakfasts and roast dinners are also spot on - place is class!

1 Response: Reply To This...
user3805December 18th 2012.

* wild board burgers

Ed CrossDecember 18th 2012.

Jonathan!!! Now everyone will know the secret that is the Banyan Tree!
It's been a regular watering hole on the way to & from sale since it opened.

Andrew McIvorDecember 18th 2012.

great review! I've been frequenting the Banyan Tree known to locals as 'The Hut' since it opened and manage the football team, also predominantly made up of locals. The staff are amazing and chef Raj is second to none! Mital the owner is a lovely guy, very sociable with the patrons and openly supports the community feel by sponsoring the football team. If you've not visited yet, why not!?

Stephen ConwayDecember 18th 2012.

This place is our local and the staff always go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Glad to hear they got such a good review. Great food and great staff.

Victoria SquiresDecember 18th 2012.

Nooooo, stop telling outsiders about the Banyan Tree - we locals don't want to struggle to get a seat on a Friday night!! The food is great, the atmosphere chilled and I feel lucky to have it thirty seconds from my front door.

Louise HowardDecember 18th 2012.

I live above the Banyan Tree and can honestly say that I have never eaten a bad meal here. The cocktails slip down nicely too. They don't know my name - but it doesn't stop me going in on a regular basis!

AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

Oh for f*ck's sake, fine, we'll leave the precious Banyan Tree to those who live in the apartment buildings in the direct locality of the god forsaken place.

What next? Will people have to show their council tax bills before they browse the bathrooms at Porcelanosa to ensure that they're from the right catchment area?

Stop being so god damn precious.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

Agreed. And I live in the area!

AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

They're joking.

AnonymousDecember 20th 2012.

Are you on your period?

Poster BoyDecember 19th 2012.

Real life is so much more rewarding than faux openings, freebie tastings, and branded PR showcasing, don't you think...?

AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

had a fish dish there once, it was dry and unpleasant. Maybe they've changed their chef?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 20th 2012.

You obviously did the right thing, let the chef know and now they've upped their standards. Your feedback has been invaluable!

AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

Used to live at the bottom end of Ellesmere Street so popped in here a few times. Always found the food imaginative and good quality (if but service of the too-cool-for-school NQ variety. Has it got any better recently?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

(not saying all NQ service bad - far from it - but was thinking of this ManCon article) www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/Are-You-Being-Served…

AnonymousDecember 19th 2012.

The Lamb Burger is one of the best thing's I have ever tasted - I struggle to order anything else when i go in there!

SavDecember 19th 2012.

Ace place. I've probably eaten here more than anywhere else in the city. I love it!

eileen5540December 20th 2012.

I absolutely love the place. I've had the suet pudding before and it was outstanding. The lamb burger with a bhaji on the top is the size of a cricket ball.

Fab little place :)

Maimuna NdowFebruary 5th 2013.

I jump on the bandwagon..a true favourite of mine.
Love the welcoming atmosphere of the Banyan tree, tasty food and drink options.
Been a regular as often as living in Whalley Range allows.
My friend has now moved to St Georges Island so even more of an excuse to visit.

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