Wednesday 21 January 2015

Smoking Goat: Inspired

Since the summer of 2007, smokers have had to stand outside, shielding their glowing embers from the sideways rain, a true British summer experience. But inside kitchens all across the Capital, there has been a growing trend to cooking the campfire way. Josper's shares must have gone through the roof - charcoal is in high demand. Others have turned to wood. But I have never before seen coal used on a menu. Step forward Smoking Goat, a restaurant serving BBQ with the flavours of Thailand, with their "coal roast aubergine salad". Similar to those smoked aubergines you can pick up in Istanbul. But with extra smoke. A mound of mint leaves. A soft boiled egg. And a drenching bristling with chili, lime and fish sauce. No one in Thailand may ever have eaten this. But I bet they wish they had.

All of the chit chatter had been about the crab which was sadly not available on my visit. So, chicken wings it was. After burgers and hot dogs, chicken wings have been a staple in London for longer than perhaps they should. As with any food trends, so many of the late arrivals are sad imitations. Not Smoking Goat. They'll see your smoked chipotle or gochujang and raise you some fish sauce. Salty, crispy, spicy, these were inspired.

Next up a yellow curry with clams - perfectly balanced flavours, generous clams - this on its own would merit a trip to Smoking Goat.

Back to another food trend sadly often ruined - ribs. In place of pork or beef: lamb. We had nothing to worry about. Cooked to the right side of tender, smoky from the wood: sweet and sticky on their own, they were transformed by a quick dunk in a dipping sauce straight out of Chatuchak.

The only things which didn't quite hit the mark were the som tam, a little carboardy and lacking in punch, and the rice which arrived late and was underdone. Still minor aberrations in what was otherwise an incredible meal.

Décor is non-descript, a few of those low-flying bulbs to hit your head off, bare wooden tables. So understated in fact that a father and son came in while waiting for sisters and mum. They didn't eat a thing, assuming I suppose that it was just a quiet pub, a place to grab a quick pint. I was tempted to beseech them to stay - at least for a portion of those chicken wings - but as soon as they arrived, they were gone, a swift pint down the hatch and back outside to the madding world of Soho.

Smoking Goat opened about the same time as Som Saa, and with both focussing on Thai BBQ, comparisons were always going to be made. But I am not sure that is all that fair. They are both absolutely fantastic, each in their own way.
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