It’s been five years since I was last in Thailand. The Land of Smiles, as it’s affectionately known, is brimming with beautiful sights, street markets and a raucous nightlife scene unparalleled anywhere else – but above all, it’s the food I long for the most, which is not something I’ve seen authentically replicated since returning to the UK.
That is, until now.
Lucky Khao is the brainchild of Mike Palmer, the man behind Pike & Pine, Red Roaster and Brighton’s favourite beachfront burger bar, Lucky Beach. Taking inspiration from northern Thai barbecue and traditional Thai cooking, the restaurateur sent Lucky Khao’s chefs to train with Michelin-awarded restaurants in Bangkok and Chiang Mai in the year prior to the restaurant’s launch.
The result is phenomenal, a wonderfully fragrant menu abundant with authentic Thai spices. We ordered a few recommendations from the menu and were instantly impressed with the flavours, from the comforting sour – think tom yum – aubergine curry (£9.50), coconut-based signature dish khao soi (£9.50 for tofu and pork options/£10 brisket), or supremely hot papaya and peanut salad som tam (£6.70). Refreshingly, there’s not an ounce of Western influence there, but that’s not to say the food isn’t accessible – if you have taste buds, you’ll be happy.
Akin to Soho’s Kiln and Shoreditch’s Smoking Goat restaurants, which are similarly dedicated to Northern Thai cuisine, Lucky Khao provides a range of dish sizes which are best enjoyed shared. The menu is divided by curries, fish and barbecue dishes on the larger end of the scale, and then salads and ‘beer food’ to be enjoyed either with a meal or casually – meaning guests are welcome to just drop in for cocktails and snacks (and with their cocktail menu, you’ll want to). There are even tiny betel wraps (£1.90), little mouthfuls of juiciness which work as excellent palate cleansers independent of whether you choose the mackerel ceviche with charred grapefruit or sweet mango and coconut. Whether it’s bar snacks, small plate-style dishes or mains you’re after, Lucky Khao has you covered. Though it has to be said and take it from me, those who order the betel wraps will wish they had ordered more than one.
Now one neat little trick which makes Lucky Khao stand out, aside from the food, is the sheer attention to detail they have put into their menu – and to fully enjoy an evening at Lucky Khao I would recommend anyone take the time to read through it. Even in 2019, I am yet to see another restaurant provide such a comprehensive yet easy-to-follow allergens guide, and it makes all the difference. While the waiting staff are only too happy to help with any enquiries about the food (service was flawless and easily gets a 10 from me), the menu proves Lucky Khao prioritises its customers so outstandingly, it makes the decision process for those with dietary requirements that much easier. Extra points awarded for all gratuity going directly to the team – this is how you restaurant.
After two and a half hours of dining, where each morsel brought back a different memory from my trip there, I really did forget I wasn’t sitting cosily in a restaurant on Sukhumvit Road in Bangkok, the subtle neon signage and foliage only further reinforcing this illusion. It’s a sad shock to the system to exit Lucky Khao late on a blustery Brighton evening – though an excellent temporary escape if ever there was one. Whether you’ve been to Thailand or you’re just on the search for some authentic Thai food that won’t break the bank (our meal came to around £60 for two including drinks), Lucky Khao is hands down the best place to start.
Lucky Khao is at Redroaster, 1d St James Street, Brighton, BN2 1RE. Tel: 01273 686668.
Images by Restaurants Brighton.
This review was originally published by the author at BN1 Magazine.