Words by Marissa Cox.
We’ve always been a little sceptical about eating at restaurants in hotels. Not because the food might be bad, but because we’re usually surrounded by guests who don’t know where else to eat, or haven’t got the inclination to eat elsewhere, which in our eyes slightly lowers the standards. But in the name of reviewing, we thought we’d cast aside our preconceptions and sample Suka, a swanky Malaysian-style restaurant, at the Sanderson Hotel.
We take Sophie as an early birthday treat – a friend who, like us, loves food and won’t be prissy about what she eats. On arrival, we are greeted by a smiling hostess who takes us to our table in the ‘outside’ area. We say ‘outside’, but the dining area is more like a large greenhouse with a glass roof and a shallow pool in the middle, surrounded by some carefully planted shrubbery, that wouldn’t look out of place in a tropical country. We are seated next to a mother and her daughter who don’t look like guests so that’s an immediate tick. We later find out that the mum knows the chef. The surroundings are plush – lots of white – white draped curtains, white marble tables, white chairs and white place settings, all reminding us just a little bit of Eva Langoria’s Beso steak restaurant in Hollywood, which is obviously no bad thing.
The waitress brings over the menus and we coo over the cocktail list, which is long and varied. There are martini cocktails, champagne cocktails and some other creative options. We ask the waitress what she would suggest, but then Sophie spots the ‘Vesuvio’. We order it immediately envisioning flavours erupting from the glass. Sophie chooses a refreshing ‘Gin Spring Thing’. Our Versuvio arrives complete with a large hot red chilli. It’s spicy and slightly tart – perhaps not the best pre-dinner choice – but it’s new and exciting and our taste buds start to do the ‘Chilly Down’ dance from ‘Labyrinth’. Sophie’s choice is, she exclaims, just like her favourite Shoreditch House cocktail, so another gold star there. Once we feel the alcohol reach our blood stream, we make our dish choices. In the front of the menu it suggests three dishes per person. Not ones to brush aside advice, we chose exactly three dishes each, making sure we have just the right balance of seafood and red meat. First to arrive is the Terlagi-Lagi (soft shell crab) accompanied by bruschetta. The crab is tasty, and the sauce is delightfully tomatoey, but we decide the bruschetta doesn’t quite complement the crab. The butter prawns are big and meaty, as king prawns should be. The roast halibut (a particularly good choice by Sophie) is delicious, and the clams crammed around the fish are an added bonus.
Once we’ve slurped up the last drops of the first round of cocktails, we order a second. Sophie an invigorating ‘Coriander Rhubar’ and on the waitress’s recommendation, we choose a sweet classic French Martini. Now, on to the meat. The duck is delicious and just the right amount of pinkness, the beef is tender and comes in a coconut sauce which we spoon over our equally coconutty rice. We are warned that the crispy pork will be served at room temperature, which we should have taken as our cue to make a different decision. It is cold and fatty and we turn our noses up at it immediately. While we pick at the last few pieces of duck, Sophie engages our neighbours in conversation and we talk about books and whether or not the film adaptation is ever as good. While she gets embroiled in a discussion on ‘One Day’, we cast our eyes around the room and notice it’s suddenly darker, but there are candles now lit on all the tables and around the pool, creating an atmospheric, warm glow.
We finish with a selection of sorbets – lychee, tangerine and pineapple, and share a chocolate fondant. During our order we are talked into a glass of sweet dessert wine by our waitress, who has been extremely attentive and helpful all evening. Already slightly slurring our words (we don’t usually drink cocktails on school nights), we agree that this is a very good idea, but quite where we are going to put the extra booze is another question.
On the way out we pass through the long bar that is buzzing with clients and we suddenly remember we’ve had some pleasant drinks here before. As we stumble out of the hotel, well fed and watered, we feel very satisfied, if not a little over full. The evening is only slightly marred by the man that chases us out of the hotel asking if he can give us his number. We politely decline his offer.
1 Versuvio cocktail £12
1 Gin Spring Thing £12
1 French Martini £12
1 Corianda Rubar £14
Butter Prawns £15
Roast Halibut £22
Crispy Pork £14
Roasted Duck £22
Beef Rendang £13
1 Sorbet Selection £6
1 Chocolate Fondant £6.50
TOTAL (including 15% service) = £224.83
Suka website (click here)