7 Denmark Street, WC2H 8LZ
Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road
“The food at Smoking Goat isn’t finger-licking good, it’s fist-and-wrist-and-possibly-elbow-and-knee-licking good.” Marina O’Loughlin, The Guardian
The smoking goat opened last autumn and its rough and tumble, messy Northern Thai street food has received a lot of attention since then, with favourable reviews from Marina, Fay and even a minor royal. Head chef Seb Holmes was poached from another Thai kitchen, the Begging Bowl in Peckham, and is joined by Gino Tighe who previously worked at The Quality Chophouse. It is situated in a former Soho dive bar – space is tight with around 40 covers, most of which are seated around the bar and the smell of the smoky wood ember barbecue permeates the whole room. They employ the requisite no bookings policy and score extra hipster points for having no phone or website. A lot of reviews have focused on the queuing, darkness and noise, but I didn’t encounter problems with any of these: I arrived early (just before 7pm) and was seated straight away; for me, the atmosphere was fun and buzzy. The menu is short and sweet with a handful of choices for each course – starters are up to £6 and mains £15-20.
We started with the popular fish sauce wings (£6) – these were the biggest wings I have ever eaten (monster chickens?) and came deep fried, smothered in sesame seeds and sticky, crispy batter. The meat was dark and packed with flavour, with only a subtle hint of fishiness: it was very juicy and simply fell off the bone. Our next dish was a special of roasted whole scallops (great value at £3.50 each) – these were served in the shell complete with their coral. The scallop had been carefully prepared and cleaned so there wasn’t any grit and the cooking was bang on: the flesh was soft and silky, with a slightly smoky finish.
For mains we had slow roasted duck legs (£15) and pork saddle chops (£20). The duck legs were firm and juicy, encased in a rich, sticky glaze and paired well with a lemongrass and kaffir lime dip. The pork saddle chops were the day’s special, the meat having arrived freshly in the morning – the chops had been chargrilled and were firm, glutinous and lightly smoked. Som tam (green papaya salad) offered some light relief from all the sticky proteins – it was loaded with chilli and laced with zesty lime and sweet palm sugar. We washed all this down with pints of Gamma Ray American Pale Ale by Beavertown which were full of vigorous hops with a nice tropical fruit finish (all for an eye-watering £6.75 a pint).
Verdict: great value Thai food in a hip setting 8/10
Luc’s Brasserie has been fattening up pinstriped Lloyd’s underwriters for many years, situated at the heart of Leadhall Market they serve traditional French bistro food in a relaxed setting. They offer a set price lunch menu of 3 courses for £19.95 (which is fairly reasonable given its central location) and an a la carte with starters up to £9.50 and mains for £12.75 to £17.50. Dishes include many French staples, including baked Camembert, steak tartare, duck confit and toulouse sausage.
I went along for a mid-week lunch, starting with smoked haddock gratin with mussels. This arrived very promptly and must have been pre-assembled and then finished under the grill, but the fish was fresh, firm and full of flavour; the breadcrumbs were crispy and nicely laced with cheese. I really enjoyed the sauce which was creamy and rich (I think it might have been enhanced by a drop of fish stock). A simple but very pleasing dish.
Feeling unadventurous, I opted for the half of roasted chicken with frites for my main course. Again, this arrived suspiciously quickly: the leg and breast had been separated from the body and were clumsily presented along with an old-school sauce boat of gravy. The meat was a tiny bit dry but still fairly juicy and the skin was perfectly crispy. The gravy was reasonable and the frites were thinly cut and freshly made. Service was fast, efficient and generally friendly.
Verdict: reasonably priced French bistro food 6.5/10
Zan Kaufman’s route to London foodie fame is an unusual one. She started out as a New York corporate lawyer, but her love of food led her to take a second job in a Manhattan burger restaurant. Then she decamped to the UK (her husband in British) and, inspired by KERB founder Petra Barran, bought a truck and converted it into a food van. Her Yankee style burgers (made with rare breed meat from The Butchery in Bermondsey) quickly received rave reviews, including a 10/10 from the Burger Addict blog. She opened a permanent space in Spitalfields market in February (although the burger van is still out and about) and I went along there for a mid-week lunch. They have a small unit near the main entrance of the market and a few picnic tables of seating around – beware, the market is covered but still outdoors, so it can get pretty chilly there. The menu is short and sweet with the only offerings being a cheese or veggie burgers (£6), a bacon cheeseburger (£7), a double cheeseburger (£9), and the mighty Bleecker Black (£10).
I couldn’t resist trying the Bleecker Black – a double cheeseburger with black pudding, American cheese, onion and hot sauce. The burgers were smaller than I imagined and were cooked wonderfully medium rare though well coloured on the outside, the meat was properly seasoned The bun was of the more traditional seeded variety (rather than brioche as is the trend these days) – it was lightly toasted, had a nice light consistency and stood up very well to the burger juices and sauce. I enjoyed the black pudding which was moist and peppery, with a hint of crunch although it’s flavour did dwarf the burger meat somewhat. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed the “American” cheese which was sharp and slightly sweet, it melted nicely into the burger meat and bun.
On the side I had “angry fries” (£4) which come smothered in blue cheese and hot sauce – they are made from Maris Piper potatoes and are cut freshly (skin-on) every day. The fries were nicely crispy, liberally salted and the little hints of skin added texture; the hot sauce wasn’t too hot but worked well with the punchy blue cheese.
Verdict: great quality burger and fries, probably my second favourite in London behind Patty & Bun 8/10