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.

D├ęcor 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.
Smoking Goat on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 10 January 2015

The Bonneville: Clapton on the move

Before we go any further, lets get the toilets out of the way. If you've never been to the London Dungeon, and lord knows why you would unless you have visited as a hapless tourist, you need no longer even consider it. Put that £17.50 back in your pocket; The Bonneville has it covered.

Some might call it naff, it probably is, but I liked it.  Descend the stairs and the dry ice gets to work: "smoke"; a cobbled street; all very spooky. Its like you've been on the Delorean with Doc Brown, transported from hipster heaven to Queen Vic's London, you could imagine Jack the Ripper walking past, dipping his cap, on the way to his latest misadventure. It all makes for quite a dramatic place to take a pee.

But back to upstairs: here things are much more Clapton 2014. Walls are stripped, men are mustached, braces are abundant. Despite this it feels cosy, a place you want to be. There is a lever espresso machine in the corner (a La Pavoni I would proffer), resplendent in brass. Beers are served by the 2/3 pint, a good selection of local craft, a pisco sour was lost in the making, just too sweet.


While the Bonneville may be very Clapton 2014, the menu is from a hidden brasserie in the Bastille. Resolutely Gallic. There are snails, but they lack the necessary punch. Where is the butter, let alone the garlic - they should be drowning. Here they feel like they've been on one of Channel 4's fat camps; transformed into a health food.

The tartiflette is much better, but still lacked a certain oomph.

We get to the cassoulet and at last the Bonnville starts singing.  The beans have done their job, rich and creamy, excellent sausage and bacon. This is what many look for but can often no longer find in Paris' never-ending brasseries; honest, rich, hearty, French cooking. The green salad is spiked with tart French dressing; a perfect bedfellow for the rich cassoulet.

There is also steak and frites: its fine, but hardly a destination dish.

There is no doubt you can eat better French food in London at a similar price.  But the Bonneville has something: it makes you want to snuggle up for the night. Outside is a place you don't need to confront for a while.  For you are safe in the arms of the Bonneville, another glass of red wine? Oh, okay, why not. Outside can wait a little longer.

The Bonneville on Urbanspoon
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Morphy Richards