Much has been made of the pop-up restaurant craze blazing an untraceable trail through London, piquing the curiosity of gung-ho diners with its catch me if you can playfulness. So I was keen to check out Suka’s pop-up effort at its Sanderson outpost. I remember the restaurant’s former incarnation, Spoon, fondly. It was there where, as a food novice, I was first introduced to the delights of foie gras, which arrived in its seared guise atop a perfectly pink fillet steak. Perhaps loyal to that life changing experience and introduction to fine dining, I never returned once it became Suka.
Embracing the trend for fleeting eateries, Suka has flown in Malaysian chef Ahmad Shuib for three months in a bid to usher the restaurant back to its street food roots. Priced lower than the standard Suka menu, the street food offering (available until late January) is based around small sharing plates. Bypassing the Long Bar, with its curious one-eyed stalls, my friend and I are seated outside in the covered courtyard, which, with heaters blaring and dance music pumping, feels more like an Ibizan chill-out lounge than a Mayfair restaurant midwinter.
We begin with two tiny cups of traditional lemongrass tea served cold with brown sugar, inspired by the infusions Shuib’s mother used to make, which both cleanses and invigorates the palate. Moving on to something with more bite, I order a thirst-quenching cinnamon and apple Martini from the Malaysian Classics menu, which is the perfect marriage of sharp and sweet. The almost uncomfortably helpful waitress suggests we order three dishes each to share, kicking off with juicy jumbo Satay prawns marinated in lemongrass and turmeric. Slightly charred from the grill, their smokiness works well with the turbocharged peanut sauce.
Next to arrive is the Sotong Goreng crispy squid with coriander, ginger and green peppercorns that explode unapologetically on the tongue. The crispy shells reveal butter soft squid, so moreish, we devour the entire bowl in under a minute. Though there is little time to mourn the loss, as a steaming bowl of Laska Johor expectantly awaits our spoons. Its fresh crab and creamy coconut contents warms my insides, but the accompanying noodles look suspiciously like spaghetti from a packet. One of the most impressive dishes is Kai Lan – a modest side order of Shrek-green steamed broccoli with shitake mushrooms and sesame. The pleasingly crunchy broccoli pair well with the unctuous mushrooms and nutty sesame.
Taking a breather from the culinary marathon, I refresh my tastebuds with a Sweet Thing cocktail, muddled with strawberries, vanilla and apple. Bright pink and tooth-tinglingly sweet, it’s soothing and nostalgic – like something Shirley Temple would sip in a Sunday, the alcohol all but hidden behind the strawberries and cream. Born to be mild, the main event – Kapitan Kambing lamb and coconut curry is too hot for me to handle, but we were forewarned of its fiery nature. Much more appealing is Char Kway Teow, wok fried flat rice noodles with my faithful friends, king prawns. Silky smooth, gently spiced and satisfyingly savoury, it disappears quickly from its dish.
I somehow manage to find space before dessert for some seriously sexy slithers of barbequed pork belly slathered in soy, honey and hoisin. A standout dish, the comforting morsels are baby soft and packed with flavour, the sweetness of the sauce never cloying. Though decidedly un-Malaysian, I opt for the apple tart for dessert. The size of a small planet, it arrives drenched in caramel sauce and orbited by an accompanying ball of vanilla ice cream. Replete, I penetrate the tart’s epicentre but am unable to demolish it entirely. At two courses for £19 and three for £23, Suka’s street food lunch menu offers impressive value, and a glimpse into an exotic, spice-filled world.