Chilli Banana's home-cooking comes straight from rural Thailand
WHILE some chefs learn their skills in catering college or on-the-job, others start their culinary education much earlier, in the kitchen of their family home.
May Wakefield, the founder of Thai success story Chilli Banana, is one of these home-schooled chefs. She developed her talents at her family's farmhouse in rural Thailand where she grew up. And although her cooking style has developed over the years to include urban street food as well as the recipes from her childhood, her commitment to authenticity has stayed the same.
At the new Chilli Banana in Didsbury, you'll find the rustic family recipes that made May's name alongside modern, street food small plates.
It's evident in her cooking methods: you'll find pestle and mortars rather than industrial blenders in her kitchen. And it's apparent in the skilful balance of flavours that characterise Chilli Banana's food: the sharpness of citrus fruit matched with the sweetness of palm sugar, the base notes of fish and meat lifted by the heat of chilli. This is the real deal – a chef who grew up with these dishes and knows how to get them just right.
The accomplished cooking is the main reason for the success of Chilli Banana, which after 20 years in business, now boasts five restaurants in the North West, including their new opening in Didsbury. When May and her husband Steve opened their first restaurant in 1997, Thai food was far from common in the UK. Chilli Banana was ahead of its time. And crucially, it has managed to stay ahead as the UK's food scene has developed.
That's why at the new Didsbury Chilli Banana you'll find the rustic family recipes that made May's name alongside modern, street food small plates. It means the menu is well suited to the grazing style of eating many of us prefer nowadays, as well as the more traditional three-course dinner.
Chilli Banana Didsbury is popular at lunch times and the relaxed, warm atmosphere makes it a good choice for an easy midweek meal out. Friday and Saturday nights are always busy. And you'll find plenty of families eating there during the daytimes at weekends (their children's menu offers a main, a dessert and a drink for £6.95).
While it's already building a good name for itself amongst restaurant-goers in Didsbury, it's reputation deserves to spread further afield. Chilli Banana is worth travelling for if you're a fan of Thai cooking. Go and check it out.