Smoking Goat, Soho

There are waves of cuisine fashion in London, recently Peruvian has been popular, and now there’s another trend for Thai. Smoking Goat is the latest “it” venue, found at the unpopular end of Denmark Street, it is characterised by the long queue of hipsters waiting outside. Noisy, crowded and dark, you have to be really keen to try the food to put up with the chaotic conditions. The team have recently extended opening hours so you can eat from 5pm, and having arrived at 6pm we were safely in our seats when the 6.30 rush came. We were rubbing shoulders with a pair of chefs who were gratefully enjoying every plate whilst critiquing the latest London restaurant openings. One of them was talking excitedly about his soon-to-open Middle Eastern restaurant – who knows maybe this will be the next cuisine to catch on.

Smoking Goat offers sticky, spicy and saucy barbecued meat and fish, impossible to eat with any dignity but absolutely, addictively delicious. Having researched the critics’ favourites before arriving, I knew what I wanted without even seeing the menu. We started with the unmissable Fish Sauce Wings and the Coal Roast Aubergine Salad; priced at £6 each, these are small plates which can act as starters. Coated thickly in a crispy aromatic casing, the chicken wings were our favourite dish of the night. The meat inside was tender and succulent while the outer layer was cooked to crunchy perfection, the pile of wings were then slathered in sticky sweet sauce. The gloopy, gooey, soft-baked aubergine was a delight, subtly flavoured and dressed with herbs, I was appreciative to have a break from the meat feast.

For main course, diners only have three choices to ponder over, of which the Whole Cornish Chilli Crab with aromatic herbs, roasted chilli, palm sugar, fresh coconut cream, hot mint and salted curry leaves is fast becoming the restaurant speciality and blogger favourite. Arriving fully shelled in a bowl coated in sauce you will be given an assortment of tools and then be expected to just get on with it! My friend looked up slightly despairingly after five minutes of cracking, poking and licking. Needless to say he kept going for a while longer, addicted to the spiced coconut goodness and fleshy crab meat. I opted for the Slow Roast Duck Legs, though Smoked Lamb Ribs only narrowly missed out. The duck was slightly dry but with a lovely crispy edge, you can dunk it in the jaew dipping sauce for a bit of moisture and a kick of spice.

The drinks menu is definitely not an afterthought with a fine selection of unique craft beers and intelligent wine choices. Smoking Goat doesn’t do desserts, there is thankfully no over-sweet sticky rice and mango here, and you shouldn’t need it after the savoury feast.

When I got home I stank of spice and still felt vaguely sticky… this is not a restaurant for the faint-hearted but boy does the food taste good. My advice? Once you have been designated a table, try to sit back and go with the flow, chances are in two weeks time it will be even more impossible to get a table at London’s new Thai concept, so enjoy the mayhem while you are in the midst of it.

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Pitt Cue Co, Oxford Circus

Pitt Cue Co is one of those places I have always wanted to try but never quite had the energy to queue for. The tiny Southern American BBQ joint is thrilling customers night and day but with only 20 seats, waiting is pretty much guaranteed. So when a Monday lunchtime opportunity arose, I grabbed the chance to visit this eatery and prayed for a couple of free chairs.

We were in luck, the place was almost full, but not quite, enough room for two small girls on the end of a table. I glanced around the dark downstairs chamber and was surprised to see that not all the diners were big burly men, obviously this BBQ cuisine appeals to women too.

The concept is simple: choose your meat plus a side and enjoy. Pitt Cue Co make all their own sauces and rubs and their meat is cooked low and slow, smoked in-house and finished over charcoal. The produce is British, ethically sourced and the menu changes with the seasons. The small scale of the restaurant makes it feel very homely and reassuring. There is no mass production here, and when one dish runs out, guests have to just choose an alternative, first come first served.

Between us we tried the pulled pork, house sausage, bone marrow mash and grilled baby gem lettuce with anchovy dressing. The meats were served in very generous portions and tasted absolutely divine: bold flavours, rich and juicy especially with the sweet gravy. Pulled pork was particularly succulent, whilst the sausage had a moreish meaty taste but if I’m being fussy was a tad too salty. Next time I go I would love to try the ribs, which looked amazing on the next door table. The mash is ultra smooth and rich and provides the perfect accompaniment to the meat, the lettuce though a little bitter from its grilling was crunchy and refreshing.

For just over £10 each we enjoyed the best BBQ meal I’ve tried in London. No bookings, reservations, or bribes are taken and now I’ve witnessed the BBQ brilliance, I wouldn’t mind a short wait in the cold to try it again.

More information here.

Bodean’s, Soho

Bodean’s is known for one thing only, it’s unrivalled BBQ cuisine.

When we visited, the rain was incessant outside and we snuggled up at a downstairs table. The dark and musty interior would be far more common in an American establishment, I soon forgot I was in Soho. It all started in 2002 when Andre Blais brought the taste, style and soul of his beloved Kansas City barbecue to London.

The menu is filled with meaty classics; pulled pork and sticky ribs feature heavily. I immediately noticed the distinct lack of greenery… only a small side salad is available for vegetable lovers. We immersed ourselves in the rich glory of meat heaven. A huge platter arrived, apparently one of the Bodean’s favourites, piled with ribs, burnt ends, chicken wings and other carnivore’s delights. The flavours were wonderful, but the food is incredibly heavy and rich – try to resist letting your eyes dictate how much you eat. I definitely made that mistake. We especially liked the baby back ribs, the meat was very tender and succulent, the seasoning makes this dish utterly irresistible. The burger was a little disappointing, rather bland and dry and the chips were oversalted… definitely best to stick to the platters. Puddings are available, Key Lime Pie looked like the best of the bunch.

Persuading each other to indulge more was a bad idea… we left feeling rather too full. If you have a good appetite and like your food BBQ-ed then Bodean’s is an excellent shout, but just like Yorkie bars, girls beware, this is a restaurant for the boys.

Visit the website here for more information.