“ Address: The Street / Ongar / Essex / CM5 9ND / England „
Sanuk is a 'Thai Dining Room and Oriental Café Bar' (does no one go to ordinary restaurants any more?!) in High Ongar, Essex. It is in a picturesque village location, and is based in an old style, low beamed building. There has been a restaurant on this site for some years now, but I would think this had been a pub prior to that, as that is what the building reminds me of. There is a small courtyard garden out the back should the weather be on your side. Four of us arrived on a Sunday lunchtime about 1.30pm, having been able to park right outside. We had booked but the restaurant wasn't busy. We were seated straight away and handed menus and a drinks list. We were asked if we wanted prawn crackers and these came immediately, with four dips: satay, sweet (but mild) chilli, a spicy chilli and a soy sauce.
We ordered our drinks, which came quickly. House wines start at £10.95 per bottle which seemed quite reasonable. However, we ordered a pinot grigio and it was very pleasant, along with some sparking mineral water and a jug of tap water. An ice bucket was placed at the side for the wine, so it didn't clutter the table up and when the main courses came out we did have several of those metal hotplates with tea lights underneath to keep the dishes warm. It took us a while to decide what to have as the menu is quite extensive. My parents had been before and enjoyed the meal and had an idea of a dish they wanted to try again (Gai Pad Khing - chicken with ginger and spring onion) and a beef dish. My partner and I chose vegetarian mains - Pak Prewan (a sweet and sour stir fry dish with cashew nuts) and Pak Keowan (tofu and vegetable green curry). Eventually we placed our order, including starters.
As I mentioned, the restaurant looked like it may have been a pub, with its low beamed ceiling and dark wood, there were various Thai style art adorning the walls and other items hanging from the ceiling, although it was quite under-stated and not over the top. Furnishings were in a dark wood and white table linen with matching napkins. Service was courteous and polite, as it was so quiet we didn't need to wait long for a waiter if we needed, in fact one was usually lurking discretely nearby. We did have to wait awhile for our food, and I assume that is because your meal is freshly cooked to order. Of course, this is always a good thing but needs to be a consideration on a busier night if you needed to be anywhere afterwards.
My parents ordered chicken satay and king prawn rolls for their starters. There were four chicken satay which were generously sized and chunky, as were their four prawn rolls which were like giant spring rolls with tails. In retrospect, they said they would only order one starter to share next time. The restaurant made a mistake and brought beef satay instead of prawn rolls at first. They gave us the beef free of charge as well as the prawn rolls which followed about five minutes later. Again the beef satay was huge, but general consensus was that the chicken satay was nicer, the beef was a bit chewier. My starter was a vegetarian platter which consisted of veggie spring rolls, tung tong (like a won ton), sweetcorn cakes and vegetable tempura. It was a very generous starter for only £6, served with a chilli dip. The sweetcorn cakes were yummy, and had a bit of a kick to them which I liked. There were about seven or eight tempura pieces containing about four different types of veg such as carrot, cauliflower, mushroom and onion. I found it quite filling but would probably order it again if we went back as it offered a good selection. Prices for starters began at £4.50, and there were also a range of soups.
Main courses were usually between £4.50 and £7.95 (excluding rice or noodles) with some pricier speciality dishes, going up to £34 for the lobster dishes. Again, there is an extensive selection of fish, chicken and beef dishes along with duck, lamb and vegetarian. I don't usually eat sweet and sour very often, but I enjoyed my stir-fry, it has just the right amount of sauce to give adequate flavour, without being too 'saucey'. The vegetable curry was also nice, it was creamy without being too coconut-ty which also suited me. The meat eaters also enjoyed their dishes and we accompanied the meal with jasmine rice and vegetable noodles, one portion of each was more than enough for the four of us. Because of my huge starter I didn't feel that I did my main course justice but it was lovely.
We didn't really feel we could manage a dessert although we did discuss it, instead we ordered liquor and floater coffees and I just had a soft drink. Oddly they automatically put sugar in their floater coffees, which my partner didn't want. Therefore they made him a filter coffee, but I don't understand why they couldn't make a floater without the sugar. The young man who made it didn't seem able to understand, and there was a slight language barrier.
I did visit the ladies lavatories. They were clean and well stocked with soap, toilet rolls and working hand driers, but did look like they could have done with a freshen up with a new coat of paint.
All in all we were here about two and a half hours eating two courses and coffees. I didn't see the bill, as I was being treated, but I believe that it was about £80 including drinks for the four of us which I think was very reasonable for the quality and quantity of food that we ate.
Given the opportunity I would love to come back here, it is not easy to get to, being just outside the main part Ongar, and I don't believe it is accessible by public transport so you would need to drive. There is a map on their website. They also do take-aways.
Sanuk Thai Dining Room and Oriental Café Bar
38 The Street
Essex CM5 9ND
Te: 01277 366222/366551