Address: 114 Tooting High St, London SW17 0RR
Cuisine: South Indian
Alcohol Policy: Licensed
Summary: A little known, quiet curry house that seemingly suffered from a lack of custom.
Urged by the establishment themselves on the Twittersphere to review their South Indian wares, we popped into Mango Palace to see if their bite was up to their bark. Walking past the likes of Radha Krishna Bhavan and Dosa n Chutny on the way, we were reminded of the company this establishment was keeping and hoped it would live up to its neighbours’ standards. Would Mango Palace offer a royally juicy feed or leave a sour taste in the mouth…
On first hearing, Mango Palace evokes images of juice filled fountains shimmering beneath fruity minarets– a thought difficult to resist for anyone, I’m sure. Not since James and the Giant Peach or Spongebob Squarepants’ Pineapple house have I been this excited about a fruit based dwelling. However, the reason you haven’t witnessed a gigantic Mango-shaped building on your way to Sainsburys is that the restaurant is, in fact, far less atypical. A shame, but nonetheless unsurprising. In fact, the reality is even a little disappointing. There isn’t a lot that stands out to give this place its own personality. Despite the odd, traditional Keralan mask on the wall, and a golden bar in the corner, the rest of the restaurant could have been in any typical high street curry house. On this occasion the atmosphere was also a bit flat too, although the quirky [Keralan?!] music – a strange mash up of Sigur Ros and Smurfs go pop - was some compensation for the lack of clientele.
5/10 for venue, but the food is what we came for, so was it redeeming enough?
Sides and Starters
After some poppadoms with a notable raita dip and some eponymous chutney, we admired the quirky headers on the menu. Aroused by names such as Sensational Starters and Tongue Tinglers we were in too much of a flutter to order for ourselves so decided to leave the menu choices to our host, who willingly obliged. However, thinking I knew better, I still ordered a vadai off my own volition – a soft doughnut made of black gram, ginger, onions, curry leaves and chillies. Unfortunately, it came floating in a bowl of raita which left the vadai soggy and me with proverbial egg on my face.
We took the waiter’s advice on the rest of the food which proved more fruitful. The first recommendation was the devilled chicken which lived up to its tongue tingling reputation in healthy doses. Whilst the spice of this dish resonated well, the garlic paratha was not as satisfying, but still wasn’t bad. The peshwari naan on the other hand was sublime. A TCB favourite and good benchmark bread, the peshwari naans on Tooting High Street continue to please these two curry journeymen, and Mango Palace’s offering was no exception – fluffy, melt-in-the-mouth, coconut pleasure, what a bounty!
Kodumpli Fish Curry
Our other main recommendation from our host was the kodumpli fish curry, a keralan dish of mango, ginger, garlic, curry leaves in a roasted coconut based sauce. As with most fish dishes, this proved a hit with Tom who was mopping up the remnants with paratha by the end. Whilst the fish wasn’t the most tender, the consistency and rich flavour of the sauce left a tangy kiss on the palate. The green, lamb malabar was of a similar dense, but smooth style that is likely to impress many, especially given some of the more greasier curries on offer further up the road. However, the lamb was not as tender as elsewhere and both curries arguably lacked a bit of texture. If you’re someone who prefers more than just meat in their sauce then these may not be for you. However, we aren’t as fussy and felt both were strong contenders. 7/10 for mains.
What can I say other than it’s probably best listen to the advice on offer from those who know what they’re doing. The recommendations from the guy here were sound. On cue he delivered the goods, employing the old, committing-our-order-to-memory trick in the process – what a pro. He also patiently waited for us to set the world to rights at the end of the night, rather than hurry us out as the last customers, which was appreciated. No complaints. 7/10
Value For Money
Whilst we enjoyed our visit to the Palace, we weren’t left feeling as wealthy as the experience would suggest. Unfortunately, we have to be objective and say this isn’t as cheap as elsewhere, but neither is it overpriced. The lack of BYOB does tip it over the edge though compared to other Tooting venues meaning the end sum was slightly more princely than hoped. 6/10 for VFM.
It’s fair to say that Mango Palace is a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst we may have let our imaginations run wild with the name, and the experience was hardly fairytale, at times when sampling the peshwari or raita our dreams became a reality. Also, the atmosphere won’t improve unless more people visit, so please do, especially if you like your curry sauce rich and smooth and your naans buttery!
32/50 in total.