Thai barbecue joint Smoking Goat was a huge success when it launched in 2014, so we’re not surprised that founder Ben Chapman opened a second venture on Soho’s Brewer Street last Friday. Inspired by Thailand’s northern borderlands, drawing flavours from Myanmar and southwest China’s Yunnan province, we had dinner at Kiln last night for a stomach-led geography lesson…
Words: Neil Simpson
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The name of Mr Smoking Goat Ben Chapman’s second restaurant tells you everything you need to know: it’s cramped, full of fire and spinning out baked clay pots – although this Kiln fills them with the kind of noodles that’ll have you ordering seconds. Smoking Goat is all about Thai barbecue, while Kiln takes a more casual route to the borderlands of northern Thailand via a narrow, Brewer Street dining room.
Kiln’s focus is on counter dining, the ground floor dominated by a long, metal counter running parallel to the open kitchen, while there’s a small dining room in the basement (reservations can be made for at least four). As with The Palomar, for example, to not sit at the counter is to miss the full experience: a collection of squat taos (Thai-style charcoal barbecues) are gathered in a fiery group, each cooking the menu’s clay pot dishes, while more modern grills sizzle and smoke their way through the meat skewers, smoked sausages and slow-grilled chickens; the smells on the ground floor will transport you straight to Asia.
Our must-order dish is pork belly and brown crab glass noodles, baked and served in a covered clay pot, which imbues the noodles with a sticky, dense texture, under which lies deliciously soft and smoky pork. Grilled Tamworth pork loin is paired with a sweet, dark fish sauce dip, while super-spicy Laos-style salad with roasted rice and plaice will thrill chilli fans. Don’t neglect to order some stir-fried greens or brown Jasmine rice, which counteracts these intense, salty flavours. Drinks-wise, choose from a select, constantly evolving wine list (including a clutch of orange choices) or quality beers, while staff seem fully drilled in serving efficiently in such frenetic circumstances.
Kiln has its downsides, which include uncomfortable bar stools that are fixed just a little too far apart, while on our visit the next batch of diners were all waiting directly behind us – this isn’t somewhere to linger. Mark-ups seem too high in some cases, so check with staff rather than assuming portion sizes based on prices. Thanks to Kiln's exotic, fiery flavours and eye-catching kitchen however, this energetic newcomer will be a hit with adventurous diners.
Find out more about Kiln here
This article was published 7 October 2016