Banana Leaf

67 Cambridge Street, Glasgow

0300 124 5099

Lunch/Dinner: £10.50-£37

Food rating: 7/10

MY appetite is regulated by seasonal rhythms. Come the hour change in October, it’s as if a switch has been flipped. You can keep your guacamole and Caesar salad. Don’t even think of serving me salad for "tea". I’m craving hot food, dishes that warm. Porridge (stone-ground organic oatmeal from Golspie Mill in Sutherland) is the jumping off point for breakfast. A daily drip, drip, drip of warming infusions: fresh ginger, turmeric and lemon, maybe fennel and fenugreek. Soup, soup, and more soup, always the better for starting with an Italian "soffrito" base (slowly sweated onions, celery, carrot). Extreme savouriness. Until further notice I’m switched to a "hot" setting.

I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in a tropical country where there’s no spring, summer, autumn, winter. OK, you don’t get fresh mangoes year-round, but seasonality seems less critical there. And when I’ve visited such sunny climes, inconsistently following advice to avoid raw (cooling) food but still taking my chances with full-on street food, I’ve been surprised to find how easily you can adapt to eating spicy, piquant meals even as you wipe the sweat off your brow.

If we’re sweating as we arrive at Banana Leaf, a Chinese-Malaysian restaurant in Glasgow, it’s a cold sweat, on a damp, grey day with a biting wind that urgently directs you to the nearest shop that sells scarves, gloves and lip balm. Before we figure out the menus – there are several – we wrap our frozen fingers round celadon-green glazed mugs of hot green tea, which is thoughtfully replenished throughout our lunch. We start with a tight, elastic roti canai that glistens with oil. Its brick-red curry sauce is fragrant, thickly textured and peppery, it catches the back of the throat. Cold but fiery, vinegary-sweet, crunchy achar pickle makes a great foil to the spices and the oil, and it’s an effective way of making yourself eat raw cabbage. Spinach and Edamame bean salad is another easy way to up the greens element of our meal. It’s coated in a peanut butter and cumin dressing that would make cardboard interesting. We’re told that Glasgow people asked for more salad on the menu. Who knew?

I’m less taken with the char kway teow, Malaysia’s celebrated fried, broad rice noodles. Its "wok hei" aroma – literally "breath of wok" – is there, but it lacks the customary spicy Chinese sausage, has too many beansprouts, and includes green-lip mussels, presumably frozen as they’re not native to the UK, and lots of crunchy, watery greens that dilute the whole dish. To me it’s more Chinese takeaway than Malaysian.

I do a double take with the beef rendang. This is the signature dish of my housemate, who follows Rick Stein’s recipe to a T, no fewer than 15 ingredients, plus tamarind water (two further ingredients) and the rendang paste (another nine ingredients, including freshly grated, yes freshly grated, coconut). The meat is as soft as a pillow, but its reddish sauce is cloyingly perfumed with coconut. There’s none of the customary lemongrass and kaffir lime leaf. Nice enough, but this isn’t my idea of a rendang, although the coconut rice is a winner: captivating in its own right.

For pudding, a floppy pandanus pancake filled with a custardy mixture to me lacks the distinctive oriental aroma of that perfumed grass. Anonymous milky ice cream adds redundant sweetness. Yet again sago gula melaka ignores the classic recipe. The sago is compacted and gluey; the customary palm sugar caramel and coconut milk are replaced with caramel ice cream and evaporated milk. It’s no improvement on the venerable dish. Both desserts have a greasy, quite unpleasant deep fried slice of what looks to be lotus root on top, dusted with icing sugar. Why bother? Why not just stick to the authentic thing? Maybe Banana Leaf is pandering to local tastes. If so, take a lead and educate.

Go beyond the set lunch and you’re clobbered on price. Rendang, for instance, costs £14.20. And note that phrase on the menu: "Dishes do not include rice and noodles." Hefty, I’d say, and not quite up to the price tag.