Our guest at today’s meal – a critic for another publication – had eaten not once but twice at the new Malaysian restaurant in the West End’s outrageously fashionable Sanderson Hotel. He levelled with us: we were neither beautiful nor rich enough to eat there. Also, the food was no better than when the place was called Spoon. Three reasons, then, not to visit Suka.
All the better that we had arranged to meet at this prehistoric (1973) Malaysian. To have lasted so long, the place must have its fans, and apparently (when they are in town) these include Jimmy Choo and the Brunei royal family. And yet it is relatively unknown even amongst many ardent London restaurant-goers. The arrival in the last year, however, of Suka and Chelsea’s Awana has boosted interest in Malaysian cuisine, and seems to have given the old-timer the courage to have a modern facelift. And so – rather late in the day – this hidden-away Paddington spot suddenly finds itself something of a restaurant du jour.
Its prior lack of profile may result from a – not totally unreasonable – assumption that it’s all about meat-on-sticks. But this is far from true. The satay are good, but form a tiny introduction to a menu that’s long, varied and bordering on incomprehensible. Don’t worry, though, everything is good. The bread was interesting. There are deep-fries (squid was a standout), there are curries (we enjoyed the eggs very much), and there’s all manner of unfamiliar concoctions (the best of which in our meal included aubergine and anchovies, though whether they came separately or as part of the same dish, our recollection blurs).
As exciting (and spicy) culinary adventures go, you could do very much worse. It’s high time this veteran oriental was placed firmly on London’s culinary map.