On the edge of that active foodie epicentre, Covent Garden, sits the Thai Restaurant SUDA. Its website promises ‘the greatest hits of Thai street food’, ‘based around sharing bowls and bites’. Since it’s opening in 2011, SUDA has received a track record of positive reviews and in 2014, the restaurant even won the Open Table Diners Choice Award. Needless to say, I had high culinary hopes when I headed over with a couple of dining companions.
It’s quite hard to do classic cocktails terribly. What may actually be a greater test of a mixologist is the often overlooked mocktail: creating a decisively adult drink that doesn’t just taste like tropical fruit juice, all without so much glancing at a bottle of peach schnapps. Between us, we covered two very compelling alcohol-free options, the berry-based ‘Fruits of the Forest’ and the more sophisticated ‘Lemongrass and Ginger Ice Tea’. A fully functioning, real alcoholic drink was also thrown in for good measure – the ‘Strawberry Lovers’ cocktail, the SUDA take on the classic Strawberry Bellini, which left a fresh, summery taste.
As a rule, my favourite part of any meal is not the starter – it’s slightly like the first couple of hours at a party. Nice, sure but ultimately not what you came for. I like to skip to the main event. So what happened next is bit out of character for me.
We went mad with appetisers. I blame SUDA’s sharing ethos.
We opened our meal with a selection from the ‘Small Bites’ menu. Out of options, there are two clear winners on the meat-free front. Satay tofu and hed skewers (soft silken tofu and mushroom) and porpia tod (the vegetable spring roll). The satay sauce that accompanied the skewers was wonderful – hitting just the right peanut/sweetness ratio.
My meat-eating companions opted for SUDA’s Platter for Two – a sharing plate made up of SUDA’s best mini bites – prawn crackers, chicken satay, thai dumpling, duck rice wrap, fish and prawn lollipops, marinated chicken on toast and sweet potato chips. The sharing platter offered a great way try a wide spectrum of flavours and textures, an almost interactive type of meal that would be a great conversation starter on a first date. Out of these, the duck wrap and fish lollipops were found to be somewhat lacking in flavour, whereas the chicken satay and thai dumplings were the strongest of the platter.
Moving onto mains, my fellow diners chose the classic Pad Thai, with king prawns and the Suda Rice stir fried chicken special, finished with a soft fried egg. The rice bowl turned out to be a solid offering with sharp chilli flavours, offset with basil leaves. The Pad Thai had a formidable recipient: a hong-konger with a long-held weakness for Thai cuisine. The verdict: a pretty classic good Pad Thai, only let down by the use of frozen prawns as opposed to fresh. (Well, London is quite far from the sea.)
The vegetarian options were diverse and even included one of menu’s rumoured show-stoppers: gaeng kiew wan pak, a Thai green curry and the most ordered meat-free dish on the menu. SUDA doesn’t just say it’s good. Printed in the menu in black-and-white, for all to see, is the claim: ‘the best vegetable green curry outside of Thailand, guaranteed.’ With coconut rice, the flavour balance is divine. Spicy, sweet and pretty marvellous.
SUDA’s dessert menu leant more on the side of palette cleansing, which was welcome, considering the amount of food and tastes we had packed away. Our dessert consisted of kao niew mamuang (sticky rice and mango), gluay hom tod (banana fritters with vanilla ice-cream) and kao tom mud sai chocolate (sticky rice roll with bitter chocolate filling.)
I don’t often find myself eating rice for pudding (and that’s including rice pudding, which should have stopped being a thing many moons ago) but it actually works well – especially with the mango. Out of these three, the banana fritters were clear winners. The most complex in flavour – caramelised banana enhanced with honey, sesame and vanilla – the fritters were the most satisfying way to tie together the meal.