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Smoking Goat – From US to Thailand (via London)

Smoking Goat is a newly opened restaurant/dive bar on Soho’s Denmark Street serving up dishes inspired by Thai barbecue & street food.  With just 6 items on its short menu (3 snacks and 3 mains), this is much closer to a bar that serves food than to a restaurant which has a bar.

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They don’t take bookings, so we strolled up on a Friday evening at 8.30pm fully prepared for a wait to get in.  Initially, we were told our wait would be 1.5 hours – although this very quickly changed to 1 hour, and in the end we only ended up waiting 15 mins before 3 spots at the bar became available.

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Inside, it’s everything you’d expect from a dive bar – loud, busy & dark.  The space has a rugged look to it, is dimly lit by candlelight and modestly decorated with some blow fish hanging from the ceiling & a few trendy lamp shades.

We settled onto our bar stools (not the most comfy i might add) and began with a round of drinks. There’s a selection of beers on tap, a brief wine menu & a couple of cocktails – i went for the kaffir lime leaf margarita and it didn’t disappointed.

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Don’t go expecting authentic Thai from this kitchen – this is all about BBQ food inspied by Thai flavours.  Moreover, be prepared for some messy eating – dishes are for sharing and for eating with your hands.  P.S. If there’s any more than 2 of you eating, there’s really no excuse not to order everything off the menu.

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So, i found 2 common themes at Smoking Goat:

1. Flavours which pack a punch.

2. Very well cooked meat – crisp on the outside and tender inside.

My personal highlights were the scallops, chicken wings, duck legs & lamb ribs – and yes, i have just listed two thirds of the entire menu!

First to arrive was the coal roast aubergine salad which comprised strips of smoked aubergine, shallots, coriander & mint, all dressed in a tasty marinade – it was nice, but overshadowed by the dishes which followed.

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Fish sauce chicken wings arrived next, all hot & crispy, with an intense sticky, sweet & tangy glaze.  The beautifully tender meat inside was the crowing glory.  P.S. I’d been slightly worried when i read ‘fish sauce’ on the description, but thankfully, these wings weren’t fishy-tasting whatsoever.  Generously sized, we had one each and were nicely satisfied (although i could have happily polished off a few more).

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Last up of the snacks were the coal roast scallops & red nam yum.  Attractively presented in their shells, the scallops were juicy and tender.  The dressing of lime, coriander and fiery chilli was a wonderful accompaniment, and i really enjoyed this snack.  It was also the most subtle dish of all 6 that night.

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The mains (all at £15) come served with a side of sticky rice (oddly wrapped in a plastic bag) & som tam green papaya salad which provided a refreshing accompaniment to the richly flavoured meats.

I’m not usually a fan of lamb ribs, but Smoking Goat’s smoked ribs basted with fermented shrimp, chilli & palm sugar were brilliant.  The wonderfully moist meat literally fell off the bone, and was dripping with a richly flavoured sticky marinade.

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Slow roast duck legs marinated with galangal, lemongrass & kaffir basted with ketjap manis (a type of sweet soy sauce) were perfectly crisp outside & complimented by a sweet, smoky marinade.

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As expected, my least favourite of the bunch was the whole cornish chilli crab which came with aromatic herbs, roasted chilli, palm sugar & fresh coconut cream with hot mint & salted curry leaves.  I am biased though, because one thing i really don’t like, is having to work to get to my food (especially when it’s sat right there on a plate in front of me) – but since the others wanted to order it, i thought i’d give it a shot.  As expected, cracking legs and having bits of shell fly around was not my cup of tea and frankly, this dish was too much of an effort in my opinion (not helped by the dark environment i must add).  On the plus side, the sauce was impressive and addictive tasting so i ended up sucking up as much as i could off the legs & claws!

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The one criticism i have in terms of the food, is that after a while, the marinade on the chicken wings, duck legs & lamb ribs kind of merged into one big flavour bomb in my mouth, and it was hard to differentiate each dish.  Nevertheless, i still enjoyed each of them and fully appreciate how nicely cooked the meat was.

Needless to say, be prepared to get sweaty and for some messy hands at Smoking Goat (particularly with the crab which is the messiest of them all).  Your little finger bowl will become redundant pretty swiftly – i must have gone through 15 napkins during my meal!

Dips Bites: Smoking Goat isn’t the place for a hot date & i’d advise not to even bother if you’re vegetarian (you’ll only be able to order 1 dish & it certainly won’t fill you up).  If you relish bold & exotic flavours, and if you like your meat, i’d recommend trying it out for an unconventional BBQ experience in London.  There’s a buzz around this Soho newcomer and word is spreading fast – head there for a low key, fun & feel-good feast, & leave your best clothes at home. 

7 Denmark Street, Soho, WC2H 8LZ

No website.  Follow via Twitter @SmokingGoatSoho

Bar snacks served daily from 5pm – Full menu from 7pm to midnight – Closed on Sundays

Square Meal

Smoking Goat on Urbanspoon

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