Tuesday 21 October 2008

Mangosteen, Gipsy Hill, south London

A small and simple restaurant with maroon walls decorated with black and white framed prints of Vietnam, Mangosteen is a well-established eatery in Gypsy Hill. The menu features plenty of south east Asian classics, such as fish cakes, green curries and tamarind duck. To start, the four crispy golden dumplings, containing prawns and chicken and served with chili sauce, are spicy, crispy and exquisite. Alternatively, the steamed king prawns with asparagus, covered with a tangy lime and coconut sauce, are ultra-fresh. But they don't always arrive hot. Among the main courses, the beef pho amounts to lots of noodles and some lackluster slices of meat floating around in a huge bowl of liquid. It really needs the accompanying chili sauce. Packed with fresh, juicy prawns, mussels, pasta and salad, the seafood vermicelli is a better bet.

Two courses for ten pounds
Most of the main courses are around a tenner, while the starters are between three and five pounds. From Monday to Wednesday, you can get two courses for just ten pounds, but you pay a three pound supplement if any of your choices contain seafood. The wine list, starting at 12 pounds a bottle, includes some well-known French and Australian names or you can pay three quid for a modest bottle of Asian lager. There is also a service charge of 12.5%, but the courteous and friendly Vietnamese waitress earns it. In the summer you might want to dine al fresco on the outside terrace overlooking this fairly busy thoroughfare. 7/10