One of the happier “benefits” of Crossrail’s mass land grab was the forced eviction of Smoking Goat from its original Denmark Street location. As fun as it was, the somewhat intimate atmosphere always meant you walked away honking of your, and everyone else’s, spicy, smoky, Thai menu choices. Crossrail’s arrival saw them removed from what was less restaurant, more cupboard-under-the-stairs, and opening a much larger place in that little patch of Shoreditch that boasts some of the capital’s finest modern dining, alongside Lyle’s, Smokestak and Brat. And Dishoom, to be fair, because, well, bacon and egg naan. Mind you, you will still leave honking of spicy, smoky Thai menu choices but, actually, is that such a bad thing?
The newer Smoking Goat – it’s been there a while now and feels beautifully bedded in – is billed as a “bar and Thai grill” and yes, it does have a pleasing air of pub about it. There’s a good beer list (the draft coming in schooners, which have rapidly become my favourite size of pour) and – if you’ll excuse me “doing a Fay” – a typically cracking, punchy wine list of exceptional value, compiled by Zeren Wilson. More of him later though…
One of Smoking Goat’s finest USPs is breakfast. While they only open specifically for breakfast at weekends, the breakfast menu is available as a lunch option other days of the week and you could have a damned good, and good value, time just exploring that. Curried saffron eggs, some with an option to add lardo (which, obviously, you should) although it’s the roti selection that usually turns my head: Smoked Aubergine, Fried Egg & Chilli; Beef Sausage, Fried Egg & Chilli; and Smoked Jowl, Fried Egg & Chilli. I’d be pushed to choose a favourite but hell, you can do all three, and have a drink and get change from £20.
Go with a couple of fellow freelancers however and you can explore some of the larger dishes. The justifiably famous fish sauce chilli wings are still – cough – flying out, but the sourcing, and saucing, come to the fore throughout the menu. Tamworth pork chops (not to mention a slow smoked whole shoulder which remains on my list of “big London dishes I need to take down”), an exceptional brisket and bone marrow massaman curry, plus great (Cornish) fish options and clever and appealing vegetarian fare, such as fresh coconut and pumpkin curry… There’s a lot of things you just want to eat.
When The Heron is on form – which it seems to be at the moment – that just about remains my favourite Thai restaurant in London. In terms of consistency, however, Smoking Goat is about as good as it gets. This is clever, punchy, unapologetically spiced food, that nods to London tastes while remaining true to its origins. And if you don’t want to analyse it that much, it’s just a damned fine, enormously fun place to eat.
Back to Zeren. This is the penultimate food column here so, if this has inspired anyone to dine out at any point, I’d strongly suggest you keep an eye on his excellent website because if anyone can nudge you in the right culinary direction (from big new openings to near-secret local gems) it’s Zeren.
64 Shoreditch High Street, London E1 6JJ