Smoking Goat. Thai BBQ. No goat.
I don’t really feel like being vomited on, says my dining companion, as we spot someone who has had way too many drinks for a Tuesday lunchtime, nay for any lunchtime, arguing with the double doors, dangerously close to where we are sitting.
He lurches in. The waiter tries to get rid of him. He comes back, the side of his face pressed against the glass door, mouth open, trying, yet failing, to form a word. Eventually he tries the other door and goes straight into the kitchen. He has obviously read a recent review which said that this is great hangover food and he is getting in early.
Out with T, we had not expected such drama, certainly not at lunchtime. Because this is one of those pesky no-reservations places, lunchtime is the only possible time to go, as the under 30s who form the bulk of this restaurant’s clientèle don’t seem to register the possibility of a mid-day meal. So at 12:30 I was the third person in there.
A stripped-back sort of place with a big bar which one can sit around, this is a no-frills down and dirty destination. The menu is short and sweet: three starters, two wood-grill dishes and a main, with two daily specials.
T tells me that we need to try the Riesling as it has been highly recommended by Zeren Wilson, http://www.bittenandwritten.com, wine maven and supplier. It is superb: floral, highly aromatic and much punchier than your average restrained variety. I make the mistake of leaving before finding out exactly what it is.
As we cannot decide which starter to have, we have all three. I recommend that you do the same. The waiter tells us that everything comes when it is ready. Is that all right?, he says, clearly expecting us to nod. Well, it’s all right for the kitchen isn’t it, but not particularly good for the customer, says T. The waiter tries hard to keep smiling but this is clearly the first time that anyone has been anything less than slavishly positive. Well, it will just be kept warm in the kitchen, he says. Better than going cold out here, says T, smiling in a way that makes clear that the smile is not an indication of inner happiness.
Coal-smoked aubergine with an egg on it was good, but I’d quite liked the egg to have been warm. Cold, soft-boiled egg is not something I’ll be eating at home. The smokiness of the aubergine was great though and the sort of thing you can only recreate if you can be bothered to stand there and char it over a flame. Or if you have an Aga, or a barbecue. And I liked the roasted rice powder on the top.
The pomelo, a sort of large mild grapefruit, was served with coriander, red shallots, chili and toasted onion nibs and was light and refreshing and had the added bonus of being rather healthy. Which is more than can be said of the star of the show, the fish sauce wings. I would not have known what they were had I not actually ordered them, as they looked like a joke-size portion of toffee banana, the sort you used to get in Chinese restaurants in the 1980s. They even had the sesame seeds on them. I still remember burning my mouth every time I ordered them, because obviously I couldn’t wait.
And the outer casing of the wings was not entirely dissimilar, but here it contained the most succulent chicken wings I may ever have tasted. Moist, sticky, sweet and sour, this was one to grab by hand. I loved them. Go, if only for the wings.
Tip 1: order at least two portions.
Tip 2: Bring some of those wet hand wipes, as the paper towels they give you are not up to the task.
Our main course was clams, in a fragrant broth. It came with little bags of sticky rice. Compared to the ker-pow flavours of the starters, this was a letdown. The clams were small and fiddly to eat and the broth was not sufficiently interesting to finish. And at £20 it felt overpriced. I’ve read about fabulous crab and great sea bass as daily specials so maybe we just picked the wrong day. I regretted not ordering the lamb ribs.
Summing up: In case you didn’t know, Thai food is to be the next big thing, although exactly when it’s going to take off is a matter for debate. There aren’t many great Thai restaurants in London; Som Saa in London Fields, The Begging Bowl in Peckham and now this, all at the fashionable end of things. It doesn’t exactly signify a revolution. It’s a shame, as it’s one of my very favourite cuisines, with its heat, variety, clean flavours and wonderful mix of salty sweet and sour. Come the revolution, please?