On a sunny corner of bohemian Lark Lane, the light airy space that is the Liverpool branch of the five-strong Chilli Banana chain is wonderfully flattered by its eye-catching double staircase, burnished hardwood tables and scattered elegant sculptures. The place draws well-travelled diners and those celebrating birthdays and anniversaries – all welcomed by friendly Thai staff who serve regional Thai food with panache.
The menu is vast, so it’s worth seeking the advice of whoever comes to take your order. Regional specialities change regularly and options include street food, light lunch dishes, soups, salads, wok-fried noodles and steamed rice plates, as well as all the usual curries, meat and fish dishes you’d expect. Our starter of gung pow arrived with huge juicy prawns on skewers, accompanied by a fresh, tangy lime and chilli dip. Next, a rich green coconut-milk curry which harboured meltingly tender chicken strips, and was ideally complemented by Thai broccoli stir-fried with yellow bean and chilli, and fragrant sticky rice. The dessert signature dish is unmissable: chilli banana fritters that are soft and sweet, with an equally sweet chilli dipping sauce and rich coconut ice cream.
Vegetarians do well here and the separate children’s menu means Chilli Banana is a popular destination for families too. Grown-ups can make the most of a well-stocked bar that includes everything from fragrant jasmine tea to wine, Singha beer and Asian-inspired cocktails made with oriental fruits. Prices are very reasonable, particularly if you take advantage of the express lunch/early bird dinner menu.
Takeaway is available too, as are cookery classes with chef May Wakefield, though these are held in the Wilmslow branch. During these two-hour masterclasses, May demonstrates how to cook a handful of dishes to a small audience of no more than six people, so if you’re a big fan of the food (and we think you will be), it’s worth making the trip.