Lucky Khao is the brainchild of Di and Mike Palmer who also run Lucky Beach on the seafront and – no surprise – the Redroaster coffee roastery near Sussex Square. It’s a pretty unique restaurant in that Lucky Khao is the evening incarnation of the ever-popular Redroaster café on St James Street. Early in the evening the light and bright bustling café gently flips to an atmospheric northern Thai barbecue format. It doesn’t sound like it would work but it clearly does, demonstrating the amount of thought that goes into all aspects of their offering.
We were met at the door by one of the friendliest greetings in Brighton hospitality. Manager Thea is a professional through-and-through, and a dab hand at cocktails to boot as she scooped Sussex Bartender of the Year at the finals in 2021. There’s no surprise to see her winning cocktail – Purple Drank featuring Slake Spirits ‘Wild Elixir’ spirit – on the menu alongside a decent selection of classics and drinks with a distinctly Asian twist. The slightly clubby soundtrack and feel of the venue really works for cocktails so the Friday late afternoon 2-for-1 happy hour is one to bear in mind if you’re in the Kemp Town area.
The well-designed menu reads as good as it tastes. Dishes are presented by category so curries, barbecue dishes, snacks, sharers and sides – all have helpful descriptions but the floor team are on hand to make recommendations too including specials, more of which I’ll come to later.
Now I’m keeping a very beady eye on restaurant prices at the moment as the days of ordering without adding up the cost are long-gone for most if not all of us. It was thus reassuring to see you could easily pop in after work for a hearty Northerners Hotdog – a local pork sausage with mustard and pickles with Thai influence and a beer for £12-13. That’s pretty unbeatable for an authentic and homemade dish, and I must say I was slightly jealous not to be sitting at the high table pass that overlooks the busy chef team in the open kitchen as that would be my chosen perch if I was dining alone however on this occasion there were four of us.
For our starter snacks – in addition to the hotdog – we sampled the sticky, succulent, whisky glazed barbecue organic pork skewers along with the barbecue aubergine. The latter is a masterclass in how to cook aubergine: soft and well-seasoned and thankfully none of the bitterness in the skin that unfortunately I’ve experienced too many times in the past. Without doubt my favourite snack was the barbecue corn ribs: strips of sweet juicy griddled kernels with a dash of heat tempered by a coconut sauce. It’s a real crowd-pleaser.
Executive chef Luke Larsson and his team certainly aren’t afraid of using strong flavours with Thai basil, lemongrass, garlic, soy sauce, coconut and chillies adding a powerful punch to many of the dishes. And they certainly know their way around a pig as the pork dishes were exceptional.
The Burmese organic smoked pork curry with ginger and peanut really worked, and we loved the popped crackling pork scratchings that made the perfect spoons to scoop up the thick sauce. Although we dined on a Wednesday, we also had the opportunity sample the Pork Miang which usually only makes an appearance on the specials menu at the weekend. This dish is the perfect main sharer for two featuring both pork loin and sticky pork belly served with accompaniments and leaves so you can create wraps. I loved it so will definitely be back for another helping soon.
Although there wasn’t much room left in our tums after our mains, we managed to share a couple of desserts. The white chocolate mousse was so light it felt like eating a cloud, although a very sweet one. The cheesecake offered a contrast being more savoury, whilst the incredibly rich and creamy coconut ice cream is probably best avoided if you’re counting the pounds.
Lucky Khao serves up an inspired, well-researched and expertly executed menu. The vibe is really cosmopolitan and buzzy – it’s an environment that works equally for friend groups, families, date night and solo diners. And if I haven’t already convinced you that Lucky Khao is worth a visit then their special offer for September will make you sit up. If you register for their e-newsletter then there’s a whopping 50% off food this month meaning you really are a Lucky Khao.
Lucky Khao, 1D St James Street, Brighton BN2 1RE
01273 686 668 • www.luckykhao.com