What do you get when you cross a degree in health management with an insatiable adoration and knowledge for mangoes? Well, you get Ralph Monthienvichienchai and with him, his mango-flavoured café/bar MADD (standing for mango addiction of course).
Shining brightly, drenched in orange and singing the virtues of the world’s most consumed fruit, mango (fact), MADD has found its place among the colourful businesses of Rupert Street, Soho.
I decided to beat off some of those January blues with a good dose of dessert, made my way to the newly refurbished venue and luckily for me, managed to grab a moment with the mango man himself.
The business opened in April 2011, the first enterprise by the newly graduated Ralph. His Thai origins have had a massive influence on the business, and not just with his mother’s recipe for Siam (sticky rice).
“MADD uses the Asian concept of the dessert house. In many Asian cities people visit dessert places instead of coffee houses and I wanted to recreate something similar here,” Ralph tells me.
The business closed briefly in November for a rebrand, emerging with a new “build your own” concept. Customers are invited to choose a dessert, a topping and drink.
To complete the MADD experience customers are encouraged to play any one of the games on each table. I spot Scrabble, Jenga and Uno to name but a few.
I have often expressed the joy of finding a cosy pub with board games in winter and MADD is an upbeat, healthier version (providing you don’t go too mad on the Mango mojitos).
Finding someone with such an encyclopaedic knowledge and passion for one fruit is rare but I can attest from meeting Ralph, it’s a joyous experience.
Looking at the array of desserts I have chosen to sample Ralph lets me know exactly what I’m eating. “For our fresh mango we use seasonal mangoes from around the globe (ie. Brazil, Israel, Australia),” he explains.
“For drinks and desserts we use a mixture of pulps of Kesar and Alphonso mangoes from India and Pakistan. They have a sweetness that is required without adding too much sugar.”
“I want people to learn and get an understanding of what they are eating when they visit,” he tells me pointing out the mango crate on which I sit which has the origin and date of the exported mangos on it.
Getting stuck into the smorgasbord of mango delights in front of me I can’t think of better way to start my day.
Mango and passion fruit fool layered with creamy yogurt, mango mouse on a biscuit base, and finally siam – warm, sticky sweet rice layered with chunks of fresh mango.
All delicious and deceptively good for you – did you know that mangos contain antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, as well as B6, K, other B vitamins, potassium, copper, 17 amino acids? Ralph knows.
Unfortunately, being 9am and all, I avoided the cocktails and shooters but they, Ralph informs me, are a bit part of his trade as his busiest period is night-time.
I thought the venue would be more popular as a daytime pit stop but I was wrong. Most MADD fans treat the dessert house as a pre or post dinner treat, stopping in for a mango cocktail and cheeky dessert on a night out. After all, his cocktails have been designed by the eighth best cocktail flarer in the world.
The good word of mango, spurred on my Ralph’s enthusiasm no doubt, is spreading. He’s already worked on a number of pop-up events and now, the follow-up to the popular Leon Cookbook will feature some of Ralph’s desserts.
The mango revolution is here, get on board.