Name: SUDA Thai Cafe
Where: St Martin’s Courtyard off Upper St. Martin’s Lane, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9AB, http://www.suda-thai.com/
Cost: Average spend is around £35 per person (not including drinks). The prices of each individual dish is shown below.
About: Tucked away in mega-hip St. Martin’s Court, just off the Seven Dials in London’s Covent Garden, Suda is a Thai-style Cafe from the creators of the much-loved Patara group of restaurants (reviewed here).
Suda is more street than suave, the concept being bites, sharing platters, and small tapas-style bowls. If Patara is sit-down formal, at Suda the vibe is fast and feisty, as befits a restaurant in the city’s go-go theatre and dining epicenter. We had a very enjoyable dinner for four on a sultry Friday evening in July and though Suda’s large dining room was hopping throughout the evening, service was consistently warm and welcoming.
What We Ate: The food began with two sharing platters. The Suda platter is a cracking deal at £8.50 per person (minimum two people) and delightfully arrayed with a duck wrap, chicken and prawn dumplings, Thai fish and prawn lollipops, Thai prawn crackers, mini chicken satay sticks, and sweet potato curls. The lollipops were particularly tasty: moist and flavourful on the inside and crisp on the outside. The satay sauce – always a bellwether for Thai restaurants – was not too sweet and had the right note of heat to offset the tender satay chicken.
The Small Bites platter (£9.50 per person) offered encores of several Suda platter dishes, but also included marinated BBQ pork skewers that were a little fatty but compensated by some delicious grilled lamb chops, charred to perfection yet still pink and juicy. Crispy noodle-wrapped prawns were accompanied by a number of dipping sauces that were sweet and sharp by turn: a lovely play of tastes on the palate.
Reaching the main courses, we discovered that Suda excels at curry. We had the Small Bowls version, which allowed us to sample five curries whilst still leaving room for more adventuring through the Suda menu. If you’re a fan of Thai curries, we’d recommend it very highly.
Our Small Bowls carousel featured four of Suda’s meaty curries and one vegetarian curry, and all were satisfying in different ways: Gaeng Kiew Waan (£4.25) is a lovely green curry with chicken that packs a surprising back-note of heat, while Gaeng Garee Gae (£4.75), or yellow lamb curry, was mild yet complex.
Gaeng Massaman Gai (£4.25) is Suda’s take on classic Southern Thai chicken massaman and was appropriately deep and rich, ringing with playful undertones of cinnamon. Gaeng Panang Nua (£4.25) had long notes of mild curry spice amplifying well-cooked sirloin beef. The lone vegetarian curry, Gaeng Kiew Waan Pak (£3.95) didn’t let down the party: it was rich with vegetables and flavour, and medium-spiced in keeping with its meatier siblings.
Accompanying the Suda curry extravaganza was a very passable Pad Thai (£10.50 or £16.50), with juicy grilled prawns and with lime segments and crushed peanuts on the side, DIY-style. With these dishes we had Kao Mun (£3.50), mild coconut rice that was a perfect complement to the curries.
What We Drank: We began with cocktails from the tempting drinks menu: the Long cocktails were especially interesting, offering a distinctly Southern Asian twist on the classics. We tried a Pandan mojito - white rum with mint, pandan leaves, fresh lime, and vanilla liquor finished with soda – and a Suda passion, featuring rum with fresh passion fruit muddled with bitter lemon and sweet oranges topped with soda. Both were marvelously refreshing, but our group agreed that the cool and zingy savours of the Hendrick’s fizz – gin shaken with cucumber, fresh coriander and lemon juice – made it the refreshing star of the specialty drinks menu (all £7.45).
Many people assume that beer is the natural beverage with Thai food, but we were more than happy throughout the evening with Monsoon Valley Classic White (£19.50), a crisp Chenin Blanc/Columbard blend straight from Thailand that held up well to the curry carousel and was very drinkable on its own. It was another nice surprise in a menu full of them at Suda.
Likes: we loved the variety offered in the three different sharing platters we tried, they made for a very sociable evening, the curries were particularly good!
Verdict: Suda is a great place for easy-going Thai cooking – it is affordable and now with a selection of sharing platters on offer, there is so much to sample from. Recommended.