I have a real loathing of places which refer to themselves as London’s “best-kept secret,” but Sticky Mango actually deserves the accolade. It’s not wedged into Southbank’s busy arteries which overflow with humdrum chain restaurants. Instead, this Waterloo outpost is quietly but conveniently located on Coin Street, close to the Old Vic, the National Theatre and the BFI Imax, and what’s more, it delivers with a menu that has real South East Asian soul.
Inspired by travels across Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, chef and owner Peter Lloyd has created a menu which brims with depth, spice, flavour and intensity. With previous stints at the House of Commons, the Sanderson Hotel and Spice Market at the W Hotel, Lloyd has worked with the great and godly Pierre Koffmann, Gordon Ramsay and Marco Pierre White.
I arrive on a Tuesday evening having walked over from Body Worlds in Piccadilly with little appetite. Going to a restaurant after seeing the whole digestive system in full-blown, gory detail is probably not such a good idea. Sticky Mango is a happy place, buzzing away with the convivial clink of glass and the waxing and waning of business and arty chatter. As I tuck into the menu, I’m starting to get my appetite back, and then some.
My foodie friend Tori and I are both pescatarians, so it’s going to be a fish-focused evening. I’m also gluten and dairy-free (your eyeballs are rolling, I can see it now), so I’m thankful that I have a dietary menu from which to choose. I expect to see glutinous soya sauce sprayed on every dish in this South East Asian outpost, but I am pleased to report that there are plenty of delicious choices for those with intolerances. I am happily informed that Lloyd’s signature dessert is safe as houses for me to eat, so I can relax knowing my sweet tooth will be looked after.
I start with a soup which is soothingly sweet and tangy, bobbing with big, juicy prawns and sweetcorn. I need this in my life when I have my next cold.
Tori happily munches her way round a moreish plate of black pepper prawns with dehydrated pineapple cubes, Mexican jicama and pea shoots.
I can’t stomach oysters, but Tori is very happy to see these slippery suckers on the menu, and she informs me she could easily eat another whole plate. The flavours are complex: coconut, a dash of chili encased in gelatinous tapioca pearls and cool kaffir lime granita. Tori is in oyster heaven.
Lloyd recommends I try his seabass signature dish, served grilled in a banana leaf. It’s a delicate dish, both fiery and fresh with pickled vegetables and zesty lime. The carrots have just the right crunch.
Tori and I are eating for England by this stage, so our eager chopsticks click their happy way through a spicy wok-fried monkfish with apple blossom and bok choi as well as half a Singaporean lobster. It’s rich, tomatoey, saucy and messy, the kind of dish we could happily slurp on a daily basis. We’re big fans of the bok so we order a sesame-smothered one as a side dish too.
Now, I need to pause for a while and sing the praises of Sticky Mango’s truffle egg fried rice. It is a leeky, fragrant thing of simplicity and beauty. It comes with a whole fried egg on top, but our waiter soon expertly dices his through the yolk, mixing the whole heavenly concoction together in Bruce Lee fashion. Next time, I’m so not sharing.
Another of chef’s signature dishes, we opt for the peanut nougat satay with a peanut butter mousse and chocolate ganash. The star of the plate here is the charcoal lime ice cream. Tori, who is not a dessert fan, is sighing her way through the dish and tells me she could eat this every day for the rest of her life.
And now to Sticky Mango’s eponymous dish: ’tis the stuff of childhood memories. It’s comforting, fragrant, rich and soothing. There’s a little magic here too. It arrives at the table looking like a steamed bun, but once warm coconut cream is poured on top, the bun melts to reveal a luscious puddle of black sticky rice and mango sorbet. It’s what puddings should always be.
In a Nutshell
Verdict: Thank goodness for this five-star gem in an area populated with chain restaurants.
Where it’s at: Perfectly located restaurant near the National Theatre, the Old Vic and Southbank.
You’ll thank me for this tip: Order the truffle egg-fried rice.
Address: 33 Coin Street, London SE1 9NR