SUDA, 23 Slingsby Place, St. Martin’s Courtyard, London WC2E 9AB
Thai restaurant group Patara has opened a new all-day dining restaurant in the newish St Martin’s Courtyard. SUDA features the UK’s first Som Tam bar – unripened green papaya, seasoned with dried shrimp and fish sauce, there are seven versions to choose from. The menu is a mix of traditional Thai, street food and contemporary dishes with a twist.
We went along open-minded after reading just one review – by the Skinny Bib. It sounded good, and as regular readers will know, our upcoming honeymoon to Thailand is increasing our desire for Thai food.
The decor is very dark, we like dark, but the chairs reminded me of the type you get on holiday, they didn’t quite fit. Open shelves were stacked with bags of rice, little bamboo pots and fish sauce. And of course there was the industrial style lighting, what else?! Curiously cute little wooden animals were scattered around along with an army of mini bonsai-esque privet bushes.
As we walked past an always busy Dishoom and a queue outside Jamie’s (I love Mr Oliver, but why such queues, hype or is it really that good?) SUDA was pretty quiet. It does have a pretty huge space – 160 covers over two floors. The top being the largest, home to the ‘in a fish tank’ kitchen and a bar.
We found the front of house waitress very friendly but after that we were pretty much left to it. No explanations of the menu or any suggestions. They seemed to be quite short-staffed and under pressure, but still there should never be an excuse for a slightly grumpy waitress. Maybe she just needs a little more experience with the sometimes demanding Covent Garden crowd! That said the food and drinks were really good, although we did steer clear of the prawn lollipops as we have seen them everywhere lately and wanted to try something new.
The cocktails are good, Ade chose a slightly too feminine one as usual, yep, the one with a pansy on it, the Butterfly kiss – vodka and rum shaken with lychee, fresh lemongrass, lemon juice, sugar and a drop of blue Curacao £6.50. It was so good that I had one after my Mango & papaya drop – vodka shaken with mango puree and fresh papaya, hint of coriander and fresh lime leaf finished with sugar rim £6.50, very refreshing but overpowered by mango, and far too easy to drink.
We weren’t put off by the large selection of choices, and dived straight in. Starters were a few of the small plates to share, the food arrived pretty sharpish and we loved it all. The Signature SUDA fresh rice wrap with braised duck and Thai herbs (guaytiew lui suan) £4.95 were winners. These rice rolls were filled with such great flavours, the tender spicy duck being cooled by the crisp fresh vegetables. The sauce for Sweet potato Crisp & tom yum flavoured rice crackers £2.50 were a particular favourite, I could have eaten it neat, thick and sweet with a hint of peanut. The Chicken Satay sticks with peanut sauce (satay gai)£4.95 were probably our least favourite, only because it was so familiar to many Thai menus. The Pandan wrapped sea bass with coriander root and sesame (pla hor bai teoy) £5.95 was simply stunning, we were very excited by these, we wish this came in a main course sized serving. Suda’s Thai dishes combine a unique mix of five flavours – sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy and the menu really brings all these sensations together.
Main for me was, yep, you guessed it, Chicken green curry (gai kiew wan) £7.50 I am on a mission to find the best in London still! I did make a slight adjustment and had Steamed brown rice (kao klong) £2.50 with it instead of Jasmine. They also has a section of rice dishes on the menu, and currently has an interesting rice exhibition, we had no idea there were so many types and colours of rice.
Back to the curry, it definitely had a different feel to it, still gorgeous, very hot (and I can take my spices), I find it’s OK if I just keep going, it’s when I stop that it hurts. Ade had a mouthful and ended up with his tongue on fire. Loved the brown rice, it added another dimension and flavour to it.
Ade had the Grilled lamb chop with lemongrass and chilli dressing served with Som tum salad and sticky rice (gae yang som tum) £8.50 from the Som Tum bar. The lamb was tender, pink in the middle and grilled dusted with subtle Thai spices. The classic spicy papaya salad was surprising hot, served with cherry tomatoes and roasted peanuts, unripened green papaya, and crispy dried shrimp. These shrimp added extra crunch to the salad, although Ade couldn’t shake the image of his childhood Sea Monkey pets out of his head! The dip added even more heat and got Ade doing the Mikey from Big Brother… Hilarious for me.
I’m still not a huge fan of Thai desserts, I find them too sweet and sickly, unless I opt for a sorbet. I hope to find one I like one day, instead I decided to try the Sticky rice and mango (kao niew mamuang) £5.95. We’re not sure why it was more expensive than Ade’s, who needed some coolness so had the Sticky rice and homemade coconut ice cream with condiments (kao niew i-tim ka-ti) £3.50. Oh, and a beautiful Thai iced coffee £2.75 which I drank the majority of, I hope these are readily available in Thailand.
Totally stuffed, we walked out into the rain after a little mooch around the lovely rice exhibition downstairs, and picked up a few Thailand brochures, very handy. We much prefered the atmosphere on the ground floor with its less formal seating of rustic wooden stools around wooden tables decorated with Thai grass.
We have since read both good and bad reports about SUDA, coincidentally the next day Marina’s mostly positive review was in Metro. We don’t understand the bad reviews, yes the service needs to be worked on, but the food is fantastic, we’d definitely go back. Especially for those gorgeously crunchy little rice crackers and heavenly sauce.
23 Slingsby Place,
St. Martin’s Courtyard,
London WC2E 9AB
Open from 11am seven days a week.
To book a table call 020 7240 8010
or email firstname.lastname@example.org