Close Menu

db Eats: Suka

As anyone who spends time in London will recognise, the moment you venture inside the M25 or step off the Heathrow Express the tempo rises.

For some this electric buzz makes the UK capital one of the most exciting places in the world to spend time; for others the pace is more exhausting than energising. Either way, everyone needs an oasis to escape the surging streets and recharge.

Describing itself as an “urban spa”, the five star Sanderson Hotel emanates just this sort of appeal. Philippe Starck’s surrealist lobby may or may not be your cup of tea, but turn right into the restaurant area and discover an indoor courtyard as welcome as the inner sanctum of a Marrakech riad. From the flowing pools to flickering lanterns, it’s a contrived but undeniably soothing contrast to the outside world.

The barman has clearly had some fun with the cocktail selection here, but sadly he was out of ingredients for an intriguing rhubarb and coriander concoction, leaving me to test drive the pineapple and galangal martini.

The cube of pineapple, floating skin-side up, made me think for a moment that something nasty had fallen in, but the drink itself packed a bright if somewhat one dimensional hit of pineapple, with just that level of exuberant fruit which so dangerously masks a fairly punchy alcohol content.

With the recent launch of a particularly fiery chilli vodka having heightened my sense of self-preservation, I was somewhat wary of my friend’s “Vesuvio”, a mix of chilli, vodka, ginger and lime. Its arrival with a chilli pepper garnish only exacerbated this fear, but the barman proved that, managed sensitively, spice can bring an intriguing, attractive dimension to a cocktail.

Rather than grabbing you by the throat, the heat instead served to accentuate the dryness of the cocktail, adding seasoning rather than burn to an overall impression which was rounded off beautifully by the cleansing kick of ginger. In the right hands, this proved there’s a place for spice in cocktails beyond the Bloody Mary.

Moving through to the restaurant area, we ordered greedily but uncertainly from the menu. Suka is offering a five star, Malaysian-inspired take on the street food trend, bringing with it the problem familiar to tapas fans of how much to order.

We dived in with some deliciously tender, juicy lamb kebabs marinaded with lemongrass, galangal and turmeric. These were swiftly followed by some perfectly cooked crispy squid, lifted by ginger and green peppercorns.

The came a larger dish of sea bass fillet, which had been baked in a banana leaf and arrived with a papaya salad. Given the simplicity of the fish, this salad could have done with a little more zest; as it was, the total sum of the flavours was slightly underwhelming.

Moving on to a more gutsy option, we tucked into the roast pork belly with soy, honey, hoi sin sauce and stir fried greens. Even when assaulted with nothing more threatening than an inexpertly wielded chopstick, the tender lumps of pork fell apart submissively upon contact, but still packed plenty of punch in terms of flavour.

Street food may be big right now, but its inherently casual nature and often exotic flavours rarely lend themselves to an ambitious wine list. Given this was the five star version however, there was a reasonably diverse page of options to choose from.

At a time when so many restaurants are dispensing with the costly overhead of a sommelier – and given the relatively simple, concise list here – the presence of one here, for all his charm and helpfulness, did seem slightly superfluous.

That said, he provided the reassurance I was after that the Matakana Pinot Gris from Marlborough was not going to fall into the trap of blowing me into the next postcode with its aromatics and the abandoning me with nothing on the palate.

In fact, the wine seemed so keen not to be over the top that, while offering easy drinking refreshment and a body sufficiently plump to envelop the spiced array of flavours on the table, the wine lacked much character in its own right. I found myself craving the lively complexity that an Alsatian Pinot Gris might have offered here.

It would have been nice in a place making such a good effort with its food to see a list more thoughtfully geared towards the cuisine, rather than the catch all, crowd-pleasing safety net of pop hits.

What did work rather nicely was the complimentary cup of blended lemongrass, sugar and mineral water we were served at the beginning of the meal. Digestive and refreshing, it did a similar job to Sherry, cleansing our palates between the diverse array of dishes that flowed steadily towards our table.

The pudding selection abandoned the Malaysian street food theme and like the wine list, contented itself with a selection of fail-safe options. The trio of Cognac, Baileys and Cointreau flavoured chocolate mousses all delivered that silky cocoa hit, but could have done with more clearly defined flavours. It felt a bit like raiding your great aunt’s Christmas box of chocolate liqueurs – there could have been anything in there.

For contrast I ordered a dish of mixed berries, accompanied by a jug of chilled, liquid white chocolate, ginger sorbet and a lime tuile. Apart from the fact that the fruit was inevitably out of season – and tasted it – this offered a nice light mix of textures, together with one final hit of that addictively cleansing ginger sensation.

We could have attributed the nearly empty restaurant to it being a Tuesday night in a hotel, but the brightly lit bar next to the courtyard was positively buzzing with beautiful examples of the trendy crowd which stalks this media-haunted corner of town.

Not for them the glimmering lanterns and limpid pools of Suka; this was all about the bright lights and people watching, fortified by nothing more than a glass of Champagne. It seems not everyone is looking for an oasis, or not just yet.

Sanderson Hotel

50 Berners Street,



Tel: +44 (0)207 300 1400

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No