Tonight we are having a ladies Leiths night, which should be a joyous and alcohol fuelled evening with the girls off my course, that touch wood, seem to be happening fortnightly. Last time we went out was for Claire’s birthday and after an afternoon of wine tasting we headed to the Smoking Goat in Soho.
I first read about the Smoking Goat after Rosie Birkett posted a tweet with a link to an interview where she discussed her current favourite Thai restaurants in London. The idea of a Thai barbecue was very intriguing and I promptly put the Smoking Goat on my ‘restaurants to visit’ list. Jona and I then decided to go one weekend, on a Sunday, to cleanse our hangovers but unfortunately it is shut on Sundays (didn’t really think ahead with that plan). Anyway come Claire’s birthday and I finally got the chance to try for myself what all the hype is about with this Soho restaurant.
Any praise that Smoking Goat has received I found out was duly justified. The restaurant has excellent and extremely interesting food. Being foodies (gluttons) we naturally ordered everything off the menu, twice. Starters included a coal roast aubergine salad with a soft set poached egg, the smokiness of which worked wonderfully with the creaminess of the yolk and would have been a great vegetarian option if it was not for the fish sauce. Given however that the restaurant is called ‘Smoking Goat’ and renowned for it’s barbecued meats, you are never going to win a vegetarian battle here. I’d just advise if you are vegetarian not to visit for the sake of your own sanity, we had one amongst us, she ate lamb ribs AND enjoyed them. WARNING VEGETARIANS: Smoking Goat is Pandora’s Box. Don’t open it!
On that note onto the chicken wings which upon a vote, were unanimously thought of as the stand-out dish of the evening. Fish sauce, tempura battered, succulent chicken spicy awesomeness. The chicken wings are reason enough to go back alone.
Another great dish was the smoked lamb ribs basted with fermented shrimp, chilli and palm sugar- the meat was outrageously tender and the combination of lamb and shrimp went really well, comparable in terms of balance of flavour to the classic European combination of lamb and anchovy, but with more heat, much more heat.
The level of spice is for me the only negative about the food. The yellow curry broth that accompanied the clams for example, was cathartic for some but for others unbearable. Similarly the pomelo and chilli salad was a scorcher and we all agreed that if you had that followed by the hot clams, a potentially likely combination, you wouldn’t be getting the best of what Smoking Goat has to offer. In the salad, the heat dominated rather than enhanced the overall flavour and I am not afraid of some spice.
The service was excellent, any waiter that can deal with a group of 8 cackling, food obsessed girls with a magnitude of questions and remain calm and charming, is a definite keeper. The atmosphere was also great and by the time we left the restaurant (having gone for an early dinner) the place was heaving. If you are a large party such as ourselves, I would recommend getting there early because a no reservation policy operates. I would also recommend getting a round of cumin salt and kaffir lime margaritas. They were delightful.
Smoking Goat is a definite must try, but not for the faint hearted, or if you happen to be vegetarian.
Smoking Goat, 7 Denmark Street, London ££ 8/10