It’s not surprising that Thai cuisine gets a whole lot more exciting than the sickly pad thais and indistinguishable green/red curries we got used to in the Bermuda triangle of flavour that was the nineties. What is surprising is that it’s taken this long for good Thai food to find a home in central London – Brixton have been gorging on KaoSarn’s fragrant dishes for years now, and Peckham’s The Begging Bowl has been serving up punchy Eastern treats for a year and a half, but here in Zone One we’ve been stuck with set menus and parsley garnishes until only a few months ago, when we gained Smoking Goat. Actually, the Bowl begat the Goat – its chef, Seb Holmes, opened the latter on Denmark Street in October, and has been getting rave reviews ever since.
The muted colours, wooden bar, candlelight and record player in Smoking Goat’s compact dining room make you feel a little like you’ve stumbled into a gentlemen’s club, though in a comfortable way rather than a condescending one. The menu looks upsettingly short until you realise you want all of it, at which point it looks like a challenge. It’s only OK to order one main at lunchtime, sadly, so I plumped for the slow roast duck legs, which arrived juicy and freshly hacked in half by what must have been a mighty sharp cleaver, their fragrant marinade and ketjap manis baste helping the crispy edges to glisten stickily.
The food is really very good – I inevitably abandoned my knife and fork in order to gnaw every last nibble of meat off the bones even though the portion was so huge I had to take a chunk home with me. The Som Tam salad was mouth-puckeringly tangy – a little too so for my tastes, though I can see the appeal of its contrast to the soft, almost sweet meat. Everything was served quickly and efficiently, though I have to admit that somehow the service made me feel a little ill-at-ease. But it might have just been that I was lunching solo. And it’d be hard not to take people with me next time anyway; how else would I be able to order everything on the menu?
7 Denmark St, WC2H 8LZ