From the S&P people, an upmarket shopping mall-style Thai; its spacious Covent Garden premises offer a pleasant respite from consumerism, even if the food is not consistent enough to make the place a destination in its own right.

Situated in a newly created corner of Covent Garden, this shopping mall-style Thai is hidden away opposite Bill’s Produce Store, and behind Jamie’s Italian and Cantina Laredo. Yes, we are in chain hell. Bijou chain hell, but spiritually chain hell nonetheless.

Being the only bearer of the brand so far, Suda, of course, is not yet a chain. We assume, however, that this offshoot of the S&P group is a a prototype for a new ‘diffusion’ multiple to be situated mainly, perhaps exclusively, in upmarket shopping malls – it has that pleasant-enough-but-somehow-no-real-character feeling which seems to be aim of all those who design eating places in or near shopping centres.

Up on the first floor, where we lunched, black is the accent colour, but the effect is not at all gloomy, even though the darkness is carried through all the way to the crockery. The plates do indeed flatter the appearance of the dishes, even if the stylishness of it all somehow merely contributes to the feeling that one is a pawn in the designer’s ‘concept’.

On the evidence of our visit, lunch here provides a civilised interlude to consumerism, even if some of the dishes are passable, rather than anything more – the Pad Thai scored out over the rather bland Green Chicken Curry, and the (quite authentic) sticky rice with mango winning out over its claggy chocolate-flavoured equivalent.

Service was unfailingly pleasant, though, and the setting is spacious and comfortable – there are still many much worse places in which you could find yourself, even in this fast-improving part of town.

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