May 28 2021
Review: The Coconut Tree, Broad Street
Today, in restaurant world in particular, making up for lost time is where it’s at; doors have been flung open again, and we’re slowly but surely starting to remember what it’s like to choose our dinner from a menu rather than making the most of what we’ve got at home.
For me, being out-and-about again is a voyage of discovery – I’m revisiting the city centre anew, mourning the passing of the familiar landmark shops, cafes and restaurants who fell foul to the pandemic, reacquainting myself with fave (restaurant) raves and discovering, with mixed feelings, new ventures that have opened their doors while the day-to-day world around us fell silent. There’s a whole new post in the pipeline focusing on all the changes that have taken place while our social, shopping and merrymaking lives were on hold, but right here, right now, we’re celebrating a little ‘shock of the new’ tremor that’s subtly shaken our eating out options up.
The Coconut Tree is a small chain with a refreshingly non-corporate backstory that’s well worth familiarising yourself with, especially if you’re of the staunch “Say No To Chains” persuasion. I can’t say that I’m a supporter of the traditional restaurant chain model myself (hedge fund ownership and cooked-by-number menus do little for my palate, nor my consciousness.) But these days, not all chains are equal; the Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah ‘new’ chains tend to be far more base-level connected to their staff, sourcing policies and clientele than the cynical plastic high street Big Names… and you wouldn’t expect to discover that one of the guys who’s been bringing your food to the table at McAbsurdZitExpress was one of the founders of the restaurant, would you? But you can expect that to happen at The Coconut Tree ‘cos it did, to me, just last night.
Kotthu, Hoppers and Sambol; Parippu, Brinjals and Jaffna Goat Curry: it’s all going on here, in full on Sri Lankan stylee (and before anybody gets all prickly about cultural appropriation, the restaurant’s founders are Sri Lankan.) There are plenty of super-lively Cocotails on the menu too (Coconut Tree cocktails – see what they did there?), of which the Drunken Sri Lankan and the Sriki-Tiki in particular are highly recommended. The restaurant’s backdrop/vibe Kandyans along to an upbeat, beach holiday beat: bright colours, walls splashed with artful graffiti, candlelit tables, kitchen roll instead of napkins, beach shack furniture, bouncy (but unobtrusive) music. Young families with kids in tow mingle happily with smoochy couples, party animals and fizzy girls’ night out groups ‘cos it’s that kind of place: accessible to all, with an exceedingly accessible price bracket (generous tapas-style portions fluctuate around the £4-7 mark, with indispensable ‘don’t miss’ dishes such as amazingly fresh Hoppers a total bargain at £3.50) adding to the easygoing mood.
Oh of course we had Hoppers! Who can resist coconut milk pancakes dotted with three kinds of Sri Lankan sambols/salsa and a runny-yolked egg… especially when (in Bath, at least) they’re a lesser-spotted menu treat. We also had a huge dish of Chicken and Cheese Kotthu (a fascinating medley based around wok-fried chopped roti, laden with stringy cheese and juicy chicken); slow-cooked pork belly in depth-charge roasted spices (Black Pork; go for it!); cashew nuts softened by coconut cream and mingled up with peas (a fabulous combination); Hot Battered Spicy Cuttlefish (think, a chunky, rustic version of classic Calamari, with much more personality); proper Chicken Curry on the Bone (homestyle, and mellow, and totally lush) and – a real stand-out dish, for me – Stir Fried Chickpeas in coconut oil and a curry/garlic/chilli/curry leaf medley that sounds and looked simple but turned out to be a beautifully-balanced celebration of South Asian ebullience… which, all in all, is all that The Coconut Tree is all about.
In summary, The Coconut Tree serves happy food in happy surroundings at prices that make you happy – and you’d have to be a serious curmudgeon not to appreciate that. Shake it at your earliest opportunity, Piggies!Categorised in: Bath, News