Smoking Goat: Flavour explosion (March 2017)

Tucked down a side street in Soho best known for its guitar shops, Smoking Goat is paving the way for a new era of Thai cuisine. This is about as far removed from curry in a coconut milk sauce or a plate of stir-fried rice noodles as you can imagine. Instead, Smoking Goat is all about a profound explosion of flavours, mostly based around smoke, spice and soy. As with the trend elsewhere in London, the dishes here are intended for sharing. Since we were a group of six, we were privileged enough to order almost everything off the short menu, thus sampling the full extent of the kitchen’s culinary dexterity. The menu apparently changes with some regularity, but on this occasion, we enjoyed almost every mainstream meat imaginable – beef, lamb, pork, chicken and, of course, the eponymous goat – as well as scallops and a whole mackerel. The latter was one of their two specials of the day (the other being an excellent dish of pork liver), which complemented a list of five starters and five mains, priced respectively at around £6 and £15 on average. We did not encounter a single duff offering and from the initial plate of scallops through to the piece-de-resistance smoked goat shoulder, standards were high. Of the starters, the pork laab (minced pork) salad – a typical street dish in northern Thailand – was stand-out, while among the mains, the Chiang Mai-style pork belly also hit all the right notes. My only quibble would be that all the dishes came in a rush and were brought to the table as soon as ready with no sense of ceremony. Our meal was over almost too quickly, with no time to luxuriate over the dishes – even if the flavours did linger for long after. Such haste may have been understandable had the restaurant been keen to turn the tables, but we were not rushed at all when it came to enjoying more drinks at the end of our meal. That said, diners be aware: bookings here are only possible in the evenings in groups of six or more. It is certainly well worth it, so plan ahead now. Failing that, wait for a seat at the bar or a table in the front section of the restaurant and take in the buzzing atmosphere. The Thai barbecue revolution has begun.