The word ‘Sukhothai’ conjures up the aromas and flavours of authentic Thai cuisine for fervent foodies in Marbella. The restaurant, located in the heart of the Golden Mile, boasts a decades-long history and an unsurpassed reputation when it comes to Oriental cuisine.

Sukothai was founded over 30 years ago by successful restaurateurs, Lincoln Lo and Ping Mak, whose greatest pleasure over the years has been serving various generations of families, who wouldn’t dream of a night out without a hearty dinner at this famed restaurant.

Lincoln and Ping have remained busy over the years, since they also run Sukothai’s sophisticated sister restaurant, Thai Gallery, located in the uber trendy Plaza Village in the Puente Romano Beach Resort and Spa. At Thai Gallery, an urban feel and cuisine bearing touches of fusion is married to the classy night life the Puente Romano is famed for; indeed, many diners head straight to trendy clubs Suite or Joe’s Bar after their meal.

Throughout the years, Lincoln and Ping have managed to strike the perfect balance between tradition and innovation. Thus, they didn’t think twice when offered the chance to move Thai Gallery from its well known location at the entrance to Puerto Banús, to its suave new home in the Puente Romano. The Hotel’s clients are of the category the restaurant is aimed at: discerning, knowledgeable and appreciative of a traditional dining experience with touches of international vanguard.

Sukothai, on the contrary, has always had a very different objective; this is the place to head to when only ‘mother’s cooking’ will do to soothe your heart and soul, and to have your fill with the tangy, sweet and herby blend that makes Thai cuisine so special. Fittingly, the Chef at Sukothai is female, as is much of the kitchen staff. The rhythmic sounds of slicing and dicing and the inimitable fragrance of coconut milk emanate from the kitchen, instantly making your mouth water and your mind wander to the imaginary dishes these sensations conjure up.

Sukhothai may have a strong basis in tradition, but it, too, has kept up to the times and now boasts a brand new décor, designed by none other than Jean-Pierre Martel of the new Andrew Martin showroom on the Golden Mile. Martel, famed for his colourful, modern touch, has given life to some of Spain’s most iconic interiors, including those of the Puente Romano, the Marbella Club Hotel, The Ritz Madrid, La Suite and El Lodge.

The result is a much younger, more vibrant, and cosier restaurant where vivid colours are married to artistic shapes and noble materials. The floors, for instance, once covered in dark carpet, now bear the elegance of wooden parquet. The bar area has also been jazzed up, with hanging crystal shelves and an artistic new structure, in a light wood, complemented beautifully by the brand new, hand-sculpted wooden entrance door.

Sukothai always had an elegant yet slightly dark feel to it but now, Jean-Pierre, Lincoln and Ping have ‘let in the light’ in many ways. A brand new outdoor dining area is being built, soon to be launched. The terrace, perfect for dining outside in warmer months, will be encased in glass doors which can be opened or closed depending on the weather.

New life is bestowed on the interiors via bright fabrics which cover the chairs and bar stools, bearing a vivid floral design. The main wall of the restaurant, meanwhile, now bears the pièce de résistance: a hand-painted silk screen representing a bevy of colourful Thai umbrellas, flanked by golden statues which celebrate the mysterious beauty of the Orient. On the opposite wall, a plum-hued, geometric art work graces the walls, and Oriental wooden lamps hang down from the ceiling, seemingly floating in a starry night’s sky.

On our recent visit to Sukhothai, we marvelled at the chic new look yet enjoyed the same dishes we come back for again and again; delights such as the mixed starter platter (featuring everything from juicy King prawns to satay chicken and beef skewers to wontons, all served with a variety of sauces) are an open door into an authentic Thai family meal. We really enjoyed my favourite dish at this iconic establishment: the Sukhothai fish – freshly caught seabass topped with a sweet and tangy sauce and vegetables.

My dining companion opted for the grilled duck – fantastically crunchy on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside. We also shared a green curry chicken with bamboo shoots and basil leaves, as fresh and lightly spicy as we recalled. For dessert, it had to be the sticky rice with mango – just the dessert I would hope to savour in a family home in Thailand – somehow, it seems that Sukhothai has the recipe down pat!

Words Marisa Cutillas / Photography Kevin Horn

Avda. Príncipe Alfonso Hohenlohe, CC Marbella Mar, L3A, Marbella. Tel: 952 770 550.