I was invited by my friends at Suda Thai for lunch to try a new dish created for their oyster festival in conjunction with Maldon Oyster, and to taste their extensive food menu. As a Thai food lover, I was looking forward to the experience, and the oysters just made the offer too good to refuse. I grabbed a chum and made my booking.
As the Suda Thai had an oyster promotion on we started with Maldon Oysters served with lemongrass, shallots, fried ginger and a traditional Thai vinaigrette along with a glass of champagne to wash them all down with. Now most people will have had oysters with a squeeze of lemon juice, maybe some hot sauce and that’s it. But the accompaniments of the Thai crispy shallots and a slightly hot coconut vinaigrette did work remarkably well and really added a superb side flavour to the oysters. Unexpected, but that made them an even better pleasure, with much more flavour going on in the mouth.
After the Oysters starter, I chose a traditional noodle dish, Guay-Teow Pad Kee-Mao Talay which apart from being very hard to pronounce, came in a more than ample portionl. It is a mix of seafood with a spicy sauce – generously proportioned is easily a meal in itself, although I would recommend a light side simply to break the spice at intervals.
My chum chose Choo Chee Pla, a crispy skinned sea bass fillets on a tangy red curry sauce. Presentation was great and the whole dish well balanced with just enough kick. Rice and Chinese water spinach stems were good side dishes for what is quite a delicate dish that could so easily be overwhelmed by any spicier dish.
The wine list was quite extensive, and all at reasonable prices – most under £20. It included a range of beers, including the superb Thai Chang Beer, and a range of Thai vineyard wines. I chose a bottle of the Thai Monsoon Valley 2011 Shiraz rose , as I felt this would work well with both fish and noodles, as well as being a great second glass after the champagne. I wasn’t disappointed, its chilled floral tastes worked well from main right through to acting as a dessert wine. (well there is a limit to how much I can drink in front of a friend at lunchtime!)
Whilst we were there, Boonyarit Khaokong, the Executive Manager for S&P Restaurants (who own Suda Thai) came to talk to us. He explained the vision for the restaurant, and then a lot about his background and experience in the industry. One of his points to note, which I mention here, is how the British expectation of Thai food has changed over the last 10 years. He noted that we had ordered fish, and how the Thai Fish dishes were now the top sellers, with people more willing to try any of the complete range of dishes on offer. 10 years ago he said, most would have stuck to the beef in coconut rice. Now people want to try everything, and are willing to explore dishes that, whilst staple meals in Thailand, would have been completely unknown in the UK. His enthusiasm for showing us more dishes on offer and his vision was contagious, and I wish him well.
The dishes are sufficiently large that we almost avoided dessert, but in the end we shared a dish of Gluay Hom Tod, banana fritters with honey and sesame served with vanilla ice cream. Light and crispy, not overly sweet, they added a nice come-down from the spicy mains and were a perfect end to the meal.
Suda Thai is set just off Long Acre in St Martin’s Courtyard, above a small complex of new boutique shops. With large floor to ceiling windows looking out over the courtyard, the restaurant is light and spacious, and if you wanted a leisurely lunch it would be a great place to sit and people-watch. The service was efficient and friendly, with the staff full of the polite charm that is one of the most memorable thing about any visit to Thailand.