So I’ve officially now entered my final year of uni. The thought of getting a real job and living a proper real life hasn’t really hit yet, mainly because I’m preoccupied with the fact that I ought to change the name of this blog because MY KITCHEN IS NOW QUITE BIG. Space. It’s phenomenal. No more baking tins in my bedroom. No more hotel mini fridge.
But, since ‘Moderately Sized Kitchen Tests’ doesn’t have the same semi-alliterative ring as Tiny Kitchen Tests, I might just keep it as is for now, unless someone has a better suggestion. But anyway, as much as I’d love my first post in my new flat to be a recipe, I have some catching up to do after the week in Cornwall I’ve just had, so this one’s going to be another review of a place I visited a couple of weeks ago, and probably the best place I’ve been to thus far – Smoking Goat in Soho.
So we’d originally planned and booked a table at Low, Slow and Jukebox, an American BBQ style place in Soho, but after google mapping it and finding out it was a half an hour walk from Leicester Square station, we thought sod it and went to a pub to reconsider our dinner options. Smoking Goat was actually a backup option after we found out that there would be an hour long wait to get into Flat Iron (both restaurants have a no reservation policy; why a steak and chips joint had hour long queues and Smoking Goat had tables ready I have no idea, who would choose a restaurant that specialises in one type of steak over an authentic Asian BBQ?), but I’m so glad this was the case. We entered the dimly lit dive-bar themed restaurant (only about 30 tables in total, vinyl player humming in the background, puffer fish hanging off the ceiling etc.) and were given the option of being seated at a table or at the bar – get a table at the bar. It’s infinitely better, in part because, as the waitress reassured us, you can fit more food and drink on it.
Since one of my main motivations for suggesting this restaurant was the inclusion of orange wine – named because of the colour rather than the contents – on their menu, we had to order a glass to sample. Expecting it to taste kind of like most other wines, I was surprised that I actually had things to say about this one – it had a real spicy, almost herby aftertaste that took a bit of getting used to, but since has had me googling the cheapest bottles to buy in the supermarket (and at £7 a glass as opposed to £20 for the 700ml ‘sharing bottle’ of cider which we also opted for, it’s much better value. We only realised afterwards that the cider worked out at around £13 a pint…FYI cheapest glass of house is £4.50, pretty agreeable for a London restaurant). Orange wine strongly recommended, cider not so much.
The food menu was pleasingly compact with just six starters and six mains, the crowning glory of which was the whole smoked goat shoulder for two, marinated in a sweet and spicy soy glaze and decorated with thai herbs. There was no competition; you can’t go to a restaurant named ‘Smoking Goat’ and order chicken. The goat had to be sampled. Even boyfriend put aside that fact that his coeliac disease should have prevented him from eating soy. It’s worth the pain (or I hope at least, he’s not dead in any case). To accompany it we opted for a side of papaya salad to counterbalance the rich meatiness, a side of ‘khao phot ping’ smoked corn, and a portion of sticky rice (which is unlimited, for £1).
First out came the charred corn, dripping with the spicy, tangy khao phot ping dressing – I don’t know exactly what the dressing was made of, but I would have happily swapped the papaya salad for another 2 or three servings of it (not to say the papaya salad was bad in any way, the corn was just fucking great). I could have waxed lyrical about the corn for longer, but then a whole goat shoulder was placed in front of us. Smoked for so long it fell off the bone into the pool of soy , fish sauce and chilli, we had no need for anything but forks and fingers, let alone the huge steak knife they gave us. Meltingly tender, crispy, fatty, juicy, amazingly messy; this is a fab place for when you want to pig out to big flavours. Sticky rice the perfect consistency for soaking up the juices and scooping up with a spoon, papaya salad the right balance of cutting citrus and spice to give a break from the richness of the meat; it was the perfect combination. The only disappointment was how much we had to leave due to reaching bursting point (was tempted to ask to take it home but wasn’t sure how the logistics of carrying a goat shoulder on the tube would work).
As far as value for money goes, it was London and it was date night, so it wasn’t exactly Nando’s pricing, but it wasn’t stupidly-inflated-London pricey either; goat shoulder was priced at £34 for two, rice at £1 and sides at around £5, so it’s doable for £20 a head. But for the sheer amount you get, let alone the quality, as well as the experience of sitting at a bar and getting properly stuck into an unusual and hugely flavoursome selection of food, I’d say it’s more than worth it.