Got £3.80 in your pocket? Great. Because that’s all you’ll need for Smoking Goat’s lardo-fried rice. Aka the best fried rice in London. They cook down the back fat of outdoor-reared Tamworth pigs, then fry it up with rice, a little egg and a paste of chilli, garlic and coriander root. Plus whatever veggie offcuts are lying around. It’s the colour of autumn, the taste of long-haul holidays and the ultimate hangover cure. The downside? You can’t get it ‘to go’, so you’ll have to eat in.
Which, actually, is no hardship. This place rocks. While the now-closed original, on Denmark Street, was a teeny dive bar with a handful of ‘Thai barbecue’ bar snacks, the new Smoking Goat is a big, buzzy, restaurant proper. It feels like the pub it once was, only instead of a bar there’s an open counter kitchen in the centre. Tables are so tightly packed the guy next to me went for an intense buttock clench as he attempted to slide through the gap, his pal helpfully cracking jokes about the size of his bum. It’s low-lit and fun, all smoke and noise and music. The look is industrial-meets-rustic: high ceilings, factory windows and girders, plus loads of wood, including the original parquet floors.
But back to the food. It’ll smack you in the face. Tiny, volcanically hot ‘mouse dropping’ chillies abound. There are also heaps of fresh herbs, such as lemongrass stalks and casually ripped-up lime leaves packed into a fragrant, perfect, seafood tom yum. I also loved the mildest dish of the night, a plate of ‘drunken noodles’. A twist on a Cantonese beef ho fun, its noodles were wide, its umami-laden sauce spiked with Thai jungle herbs like holy basil and wild ginger. Slices of smoked brisket were in the mix, their broad fatty edges adding extra depth. This is salty, unctuous, eat-while-getting-drunk food.
In fact, it’s all drinking food. Flavours are so big, so bold, they really are best with a few beers. Don’t miss the signature fish-sauce chicken wings, with their sticky sweet-salt-heat sauce, or deep-fried shell-on Cornish prawns, covered in crunchy, peppery, cumin-salted batter. You eat ’em whole.
The only dish that was a little too extreme was the laab-style pork. If you’re brave – some might say reckless – enough to order this dry-fried mince, then do yourself a favour and team it with a soothing plain rice. I can take most levels of spice and it pretty much blew my head off.
But that’s just the kind of place Smoking Goat is. A place to smack you around and leave you reeling. In the mouth, but never the wallet. Good times a-go-go.