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Sukho, Fulham, London


According to an obscure government department tasked with monitoring this sort of thing, sales of Thai food are up 36% since this time last year. This is hardly surprising given the archipelago’s popularity as a British tourist destination – likely to plummet after that imbroglio at the airport – and a domestic palate well versed in spicy food. Like pretty much every other Brit, then, I have a soft spot for Thai cooking. At my first dinner party, aged 14 or so, I served Nigel Slater’s delicious Thai green chicken curry from Real Food as a main course (a dish sandwiched, naturally, by insalata caprese and banoffee pie). I also spent a month in the region with C of Jade Garden and The Capital back in 2004, where we did this cookery course in Chiang Mai which I heartily commend to you, should you ever be visiting.

R and I – reviews here seem to begin with these initials more and more – are kicking around Fulham having seen the very much 3/5 Quantum of Solace at the Broadway. A search on Time Out throws up Sukho, an ‘intimate, stylish and peaceful’ Thai local. It’s not far, but the eve is bitter chill, so we’ll grab a cab. A little way down the Fulham Road, please.

‘Righto, guv.’

I can see the pudgy form of the Bibendum Michelin man when I realise we’re going the wrong way. So we chug backwards down the same street and eventually hit the restaurant at half-eight, 20 quid down. They’re full. We sit for half an hour in the Sloaney Pony, then in we go.

The peerless scent of lemongrass has seeped into the air here, as clean and invigorating as a massage. It’s lifted further by hints of lime and tamarind, fresh garlic and a whiffy tinge of nam pla. It’s the best-smelling restaurant I’ve been to for ages. The room is done up nicely, with some Paul Smith-y coloured stripes on the walls, sensible lighting, and a mixture of leathery banquettes and wooden chairs. A brass gong sits temptingly by the door, but I resist giving it a bosh. They’ve packed the tiny tables together with depressing eagerness, and the place is full. Two inches separate me from the pearls of my neighbour, who’s braying with matronly self-importance that the restaurant is ‘ebsolutely mahvellous’ and ‘such a find’. Her companions nod with resigned acquiescence. I hope she’s right.

Three starters come promptly, and look lovely. Little flowers decorate the plates; are these inedible prettifyers re-used between customers? Por pia sod are fresh spring rolls stuffed with tofu, herbs, fried egg, crab and Thai sausage, with a thick, sour sauce of tamarind on the side. A clear case where less would have been more: the sausage, especially, should be dispensed with. Bismarck once quipped that people who would retain respect for laws and sausages should avoid witnessing the production of either. Here, you don’t have to witness it: the sausagemeat powerfully evokes the scrapings from the Bangkok abattoir floor. Ploy sam see are better: three mixed dumplings, liberally pumped by the chemical food dyes beloved throughout Asia. There’s one of chicken, one of fish, and, er, one of chicken and prawn. ‘Delicious,’ R says, but I think that’s overdoing it – there’s a placental slipperiness to their exterior and a rubberiness to their filling. The last starter is the best by a considerable margin: tod man pla-goong, two fishcakes with the classic sauce of chilli and cucumber, given extra note here by crushed peanuts. As the waitress removes the plates, the proximity of the tables means she can’t turn round, so she sort of moonwalks back to the kitchen as if we were royalty. It’s a strange sensation.

Main courses see an improvement: a five-spiced duck confit, ped tok takrai, with lemongrass, tamarind and roasted orange, is surprisingly tender. This is a good display of technique, with the slightly burnt orange – a fine thing, that – bringing a shimmer of caramel. Poo sa moon prai are flawless, and the dish of the evening. Soft shell crabs deep fried and served with lemongrass, lime leaves, fresh green peppercorns and coriander. There’s no trace of greasiness, and the crabs incorporate that delightful mingling of sea-fresh flecked white meat and creamy, gooey dark. This is the best incarnation of the crustaceans I’ve had in ages, better than the ones I had at the two-Michelin-starred Capital recently. Last are king prawns in a red curry sauce with more lime leaves and fresh chilli – chu chi goong. It’s good, but for £13.95, I’d dared to hope for more than four prawns. This is all enjoyed with some jasmine rice and a side dish of stir-fried asparagus (God knows where from, at this time of year) and purple-sprouting broccoli.

Puddings in Asian restaurants are often execrable, the continent not sharing the northern European urge for sugar and stodge. Still, we order kao neow mamuang – mango with sticky rice – and a crépe [sic] pon la mai, a thin pancake with orange compôte and a scoop of vanilla. The mango mistakenly emerges as – Jesus Christ – banana fritters. For the sake of this review, I sneakily taste one before sending them back. They’re pleasantly hot, fresh out the fryer, and the banana was clearly in decent nick before it was massacred for this dish, but overall they’re as horrible as you’d expect. The crèpe is marginally better.

Not a bad place, Sukho. A considerable step-up from a bog-standard Thai – which has emerged, in recent years, almost with the staid regularity of a bog-standard tandoori. The staff are an attentive, friendly bunch. When the bill appears, it seems rather a lot, though, considering we only drank a couple of beers apiece. A good neighbourhood restaurant, then, perhaps with certain ideas above its station.

Sukho, 855 Fulham Road, London SW6
Tel. +44 (0)20 7371 3600
See on the TFYS Map

Dinner for two, excluding drinks and service, costs £75.15; £101.70 all-in with four Singha beers and twelve-and-a-half.

Sukho Thai Cuisine on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

  1. Good Saturday to you Oliver.
    I've never been a thai fan, and your review reminded me of why... I'd rather have good chinese any day !