Physical exercise, that jacket on sale sort of like the one you want but not quite, your stepdad. All things that you want to like more than you do. You know, things that are better in theory than in reality. Where the algorithm says he or she is perfect for you but you’re watching them dip pizza into ketchup. A regional Thai restaurant in Shoreditch, say, that promises more than it delivers. Welcome friends, to Smoking Goat.
The frustrating thing about Smoking Goat is that, much like your stepfather, it could be so much more. On paper, it reads like the much prayed for answer to every weekend restaurant search we’ve ever made. ‘Northern Thai food Shoreditch High St under fifteen pounds main big tables cocktails’.
As with the original restaurant in Soho, there’s a short and sometimes changing menu that falls a bit flat when eaten repeatedly. Both the drunken noodles and massaman curry, for example, are indistinct in flavour and spice, such that you’ll probably wonder what region of Greater London they’re from rather than Thailand. That said, there are some winners - the duck laab is a welcome injection of heat, while the fish sauce chicken wings are surefire crowd pleasers. Finally, the popular lardo rice is an unusual tasting hybrid of sweet, salty, spicy, sour… and scratchings. It’s a slow-burner with the flavours coming through much more as it cools down. The sort of thing you could imagine eating with a tablespoon direct from the fridge tomorrow morning.
Smoking Goat is in its element when serving bigger groups. The ceilings are high, the tables are long, and the service is relaxed. The menu is small and affordable enough to be a bit nudge-nudge-order-everything and the flavours lend themselves to being shovelled into your mouth. Mix some of the underseasoned drunken noodles or goat curry with the incredibly spicy laab, and you’re in business.
No matter how much you order though, this place satisfies rather than stuns. As London’s food scene constantly tries to out-London itself, regional Thai has become as regular as a bag of chips. I mean, my Nan has Thai sai oua sausage sandwiches for breakfast. So if you’re going to do this, it needs to be really quite good.
But you know what? Though it may not be as spectacular as it could be, you can still have a bit of fun at Smoking Goat. Bring some friends. Drink some drinks. Just don’t bring your stepdad.
Chilli Fish Sauce Wings
Covered in a sweet and sour fish sauce plus shallot and coriander toppings, these crispy little guys are a must order.
This stuff is pretty fiery but is good combined with a mouthful of basil. Worth the trip if you’ve got a blocked nose.
You’re gonna have to get the tequila out, because we clearly weren’t drunk enough. The flavours could have come from any generic takeaway noodles.
Lardo Fried Rice
A hefty portion of fried rice with bits of crispy pork fat running through it. The sort of thing you’d wolf down the morning after the night before.
Goat Massaman Curry
Did someone order an unknown hunk of meat to sit in a puddle of indeterminably flavoured curry sauce? This is completely edible, but with ‘goat’ being in the name, we expected a bit more.