Friday 21st November - The London food scene is doing its best impression of the capital's bus network at the moment. We wait for ages and then three lobster shacks and two New York delis come along at once.
Less predictable though was the simultaneous arrival of Som Saa in London Fields and Smoking Goat in Soho, two new hip Thai hangouts full of dishes you won't find on your local takeaway menu. I made it to the fantastic Som Saa a while back, and almost knocked off Smoking Goat a couple of days later, only to be foiled by a faulty BBQ.
Resistance was futile and I was back again before too long, huddled in the doorway waiting to be seated, with a moreish pale ale from new One Mile End brewery in hand.
Things you should know about Smoking Goat:
- Those clever folk from The Begging Bowl in Peckham are behind it
- It only seats around 30 people
- It's very popular
- Despite being open in the afternoon, the BBQ isn't properly fired up until 5pm (this may change)
- There are no reservations
- It's pretty dark and loud
- There are roughly 6 items on the menu
- You can't go to the toilet without making half the room stand up
- You will be covered in crab & eau de BBQ by the time you leave - dress accordingly
- You won't regret it one bit
We waited almost an hour for a table on our second visit. And by table, I mean a barrel that barely managed to contain our drinks let alone the plethora of crab, duck & lamb limbs. This may sound stressful, and in some ways it is, but Smoking Goat gets away with it due to a buzzing atmosphere and knockout cooking.
Order as much as you can afford, but don't miss the Fish Sauce Wings for starters. They aren't subtle, but they're not trying to be. The Coal Roast Scallops with Red Nam Yum come highly recommended too.
|Fish Sauce Wings|
Then you are on to the big three.
- Smoked lamb ribs basted with fermented shrimp, chilli and palm sugar
- Slow roast duck legs marinated with galangal, lemongrass & kaffir lime leaves, basted with ketjap manis & white pepper
- both served with som tam (green papaya salad), and sticky rice essential for mopping up jaew dipping sauce
- Whole Cornish Chilli Crab with aromatic herbs, roasted chilli, palm sugar and fresh coconut cream with hot mint and salted curry leaves.
As already mentioned, there's no way around it, you will come out covered in crab. Even if you are a skilled excavator, the person next to you probably isn't. It's best to just smear some all over yourself at the start and get on with it, as you don't want to hesitate while the messy eaters have their fill.
Our only criticism would be that the crab should have come out after the lamb and duck, allowing us to at least eat those two plates with a little dignity, but we were already a disgrace by the time they arrived, and they were slightly forgotten about as a result.
|Whole Cornish Crab|
If you are lucky, you might also have some specials to choose from along the lines of Whole Roast Sea Bass, 5 Spice BBQ Pork Belly & Crispy Belly & Melon Salad or Wood roast quail with sweet soy and chilli but the crab carnage must be your Smoking Goat initiation.
Add it to that pile with Pitt Cue Co & Flat Iron - Soho joints with no reservations that are worth the wait.
Saturday 22nd November - I love a good day out in Haggerston. Start off at Duke's Brew & Que for beers and BBQ brunch, or just a coffee from Haggerston Espresso Room. Maybe have a little walk along the canal before relocating to The Fox Craft Beer House for the afternoon. Then choose between the likes of Jones & Sons at Trip Kitchen, Tonkotsu and Rotorino for dinner. Hard to beat.
If that all sounds a bit boozy, let me introduce you to Draughts, a new all day board game café / bar that has taken inspiration from the smash hits Snakes & Lattés and Snakes & Lagers in Toronto (which we paid a visit to earlier this year by chance).
For £5 a head cover charge, you are granted all day access to Draughts' epic library of games. They have everything you need, from Jenga to Jungle Speed, Cluedo to Carcassonne, Scrabble to Settlers of Catan.
My advice is - try something new. We discovered co-operative games like Hanabi in Canada, ideal for groups of friends that don't play games so that they can stab each other in the back. The likes of Pandemic and Forbidden Island will see you working together to save the world or treasure or some macguffin. The staff know their stuff, and will happily recommend something new for you to play, and give you a speedy breakdown of the rules & regulations.
Food & drink is simple but solid. Sandwiches, Victoria Yum cakes, a good selection of bottled beers plus a local Beavertown draught option, Notes coffee, wine & Dalston cola soft drinks. Enough to keep you going through a game of Galaxy Trucker.
They haven't quite sorted out a booking policy yet, as the £5 play as much as you want scheme means nobody ever wants to leave, so there's a high chance that you will turn up and be placed on a waiting list with no end in sight. Hopefully they will find some way around that. Otherwise, your best bet is to rock up early on a Saturday and settle in for the long haul.
You can become a Draughts member which gives you cheaper entry and first refusal on future special events. Also, many of the games are available to buy on site if you are hooked after a couple of rounds.
If Draughts is full when you get there, you could check out Loading Bar not too far away in Stokey, It is mainly focused on electronic games, but does also have a good selection of table-top games to choose from. Plus they have ridiculously named cocktails like Earthworm Gin, Deus Ex On The Beach, Assassin's Mead, Skyrum and Last Call of Duty : Advanced Barfare.
Haggerston top tip this weekend:
"A one off celebration of London’s vibrant Maker Movement featuring some of the capitals finest talent across music, food, drinks and retail. Housed in Fairground’s temporary home in a disused office block in Haggerston, a bespoke programme for both day and night will showcase the very best thinkers and tinkerers.
Each level by day will have a distinctive theme, starting at Level One will be a MAKERS MARKET, showcasing some of the best artisanal creators, artists, producers and brands. Level Two and the MAKERS LOUNGE will provide an opportunity for physical exploration with a diverse programme of workshops. Top floor and the MAKERS KITCHEN on Level Three will see a carefully crafted menu by critically acclaimed BEN SPALDING using handmade ingredients cherry-picked by Hackney Hampers.
Once our daytime Makers Market and Workshops close down at 6pm, the lights will be lowered and the Makers Evening will ease into action. On the first floor all the market stalls will be packed away, while up in the lounge the workshop tables will be cleared and will be available to be booked for the Winter Whiskey Pairing Menu on offer. The meat & whiskey theme in that room will be taken further with both Woodford Reserve master classes and a Meat Raffle being hosted there. While upstairs in our Makers Kitchen the cocktail bar will be open all night along with Ben Spalding’s seasonal menu."
After a successful go at Forbidden Island at Draughts, and a rapid round of miniature golf at Swingers, we sped up to Dalston to pay a flying visit to High Water before catching the last overground.
High Water is a cosy new neighbourhood cocktail & whisky bar run by friendly bartenders with impressive CVs (Dead Rabbit, Milk & Honey, Hawksmoor), and I don't really want to say much more than that until I've spent a whole evening there. Sit up at the bar and let Bobby & Mia look after you. Get yourself one of their house cocktails or go off menu for around £9. They do small serves for less, as well as larger sharing cocktails though without gimmicky presentation.
After a trip to USA this summer, Tim and I felt transported back to the likes of Weather Up (Brooklyn) & Billy Sunday (Chicago) - is London finally getting the hang of this service industry gig?
No frills, no fuss, just classy cocktails in a welcoming atmosphere - what more could you want?
Read more and watch a nice video about High Water on Difford's Guide
I'll be back for more, especially as the Happiness Forgets boys have just opened up their new bar, Original Sin, complete with pool table, further up the road below Stokey Bears. Check back soon for more news on all of those.
I'd like to finish up by quickly mentioning Taste Cocktails - a relatively new company that sends out monthly cocktail kits for you to mix together yourself at home. Each kit focuses on a particular style of drink or spirit (e.g. Old Fashioneds, Daiquiris, Gin, Brandy) and provides you with all of the boozy ingredients that you will need for £29/month.
You can also buy the kits as one-off gifts, and they will go down a storm at Christmas (plus you might benefit from some of the drinks yourself!). If you also need the cocktail making equipment, there is a £30 starter kit, or you can get the tools and your first box for £49.
I was the lucky recipient of the Brandy Alexander box which included Brandy, Creme de Cacao, Frangelico and Kahlua for making Brandy & Hazelnut Alexanders, and Chocolate Biscuit cocktails, as you can see below. All I had to add was a bit of double cream and milk from the fridge, and a little bit of nutmeg as garnish.
Matt The Tip : Filter your water before making ice - it's always the weakest area of home bartending & essential to get right.
It is of course cheaper in the long run to by a load of full bottles, but most don't want to be stuck with 750ml of Maraschino, just so that they can use 10ml in a Manhattan once a year, so the kits are a fantastic idea.
N.B. I don't include myself in this; I'm a massive hoarder of spirits. Please give me loads of spirits.
Buy them here - www.tastecocktails.com