The Mango Tree.

Mango Tree is a hugely popular Indian restaurant on Dharmapala Mawatha serving mainly North Indian cuisine. The food is very rich, and while standards do seem to have slipped, it can still be good. Order wisely.

Mango Tree. This is the restaurant that really popularised Indian cuisine in Sri Lanka. While there had, of course, been forays into the ghee-laced world of naan, paneer and butter chicken before – Navaratnam, Amaravathi – none of the island’s Indian restaurants really reached the wild popularity of the North leaning establishment on Dharmapala Mawatha. At least not that I remember.

I’ve been to Mango Tree on countless occasions; I have eaten more naans than is necessary and I have waddled home after uniting a bowl of warm gulab jamun and a icy kulfi into a single sweet and staggering dessert. These have been good, albeit rather uncomfortable, times.

But lately, the Tree seems to be withering – while the food certainly isn’t bad, it just isn’t as good as I remember it to be. The curries all seem to have blurred into a single dish – a creamy concoction so viscous it oozes off the spoon and so rich that it can wind up sickly. This isn’t to say that Mango Tree is bad – it isn’t. It’s popular, and the food can be tasty. They have an extensive menu and a cocktail list that almost matches in length and variety. A smoky murg tikka (Rs. 800) can offset the treacly richness of a paneer makhani (Rs. 695), and opting for a plain naan over the butter (Rs. 195) will definitely help you through a couple of creamy curries. But I still think the success of the early days is what keeps them coasting – that and a pleasant, well-designed location and space.

The service, however, is appalling. While the main manager is helpful, his surrounding battalion of waiters are gormless at best and are incapable of attending to a customer in any way that may stretch beyond the learned line of duty. For example, when specifically citing a peanut allergy linked to one of their chutneys, the condiment we wanted to avoid was blankly placed in front of us. When an actual allergic reaction took place (previous visit), we were told we couldn’t cancel our order – despite it being placed less than 5 minutes ago – and payment was demanded for the two drinks we had ordered but not touched. No concern was expressed and we weren’t asked if we were okay – our departure, which needed to be swift, was just delayed by unnecessary quibbles over cancelling the order, etc.

But Mango Tree is a business beast. Almost every other leaf of the menu includes a full page advertisement (!) and on one of their walls is a television cycling through a string of jarring banners and slogans; they’re siphoning the rupee out of every squeezable cranny, so whether you like them or not, they’ll do just fine. And all that being said, the food can be good if you order wisely. Just don’t expect top notch service and smiles.

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