It’s really here chaps – Christmas is tomorrow, the geese are getting fat and all that – and I’m feeling the love more than ever before. I’m drunk on the festive season, and let’s face it, literally drunk most evenings with office parties galore and all that carolling.
We got our tree nice and early from Pines & Needles, the very best, and carried it from Brick Lane to Barbican. I say we, but truth be told I spotted an alluring mulled wine cart just as we were setting off, and my hands were conveniently otherwise occupied for most of the walk. Luckily I had this guy with me… (He’s grimacing behind the smile!)
Anyway, I’m not here to brag about how beautifully decorated our 6 ft Norwegian Nordmann, creatively named Norman, or to tell you how heated the decision got between a rose gold / non rose gold colour palette for the baubles (don’t even get me started on tinsel vs no tinsel) but instead, I bring you a new and exciting restaurant in the very heart of Soho.
Kiln is the latest hotspot deemed good enough to queue for and describes itself as ‘Thai grill, seafood & claypots’. Quite the original tag line.
It comes from Ben Chapman, the co-founder and former head chef at The Smoking Goat and though the food is from a different provenance than its owner’s previous establishment, the menu has a similarly exciting feel to it and the flavours don’t half pack a punch.
The langoustines with kaffir lime and sweet lime are hard work; very zingy and angrily spicy but not quite enough reward for a dish where you have to get your hands dirty. Or maybe we were just doing it wrong – entirely
But it only got better – way better – with slow grilled chicken and soy, a deliciously tender and chargrilled quartet of meat pieces which whetted the appetite nicely.
Aged lamb and cumin skewers are also a must to kick things off and the amount of flavour in such a small bite signals what is to come.
Next up: Laos style pollock with chilli and roast rice laap. Extremely punchy, and not for the faint hearted, but wonderful if you can handle it. So much going on in one dish; the product of ambitious and accomplished chefs at work in the kitchen.
The menu changes regularly depending on the catch, so expect different dishes to those seen here – especially when it comes to the fishier side of things. But of the Mylor prawns are on, you’ve sort of got to order them. Best eaten whole, otherwise you lose the flavour coated onto the delicate shells, they’re a wonderfully smoky plate of lusciousness.
The scallops were a little disappointing in size but what they lacked in stature they made up for in flavour combinations. Much like slurping an oyster, they slide down nicely white white soy and a generous sprinkling of spring onion.
But to me, the Kiln experience is all about the following two dishes. Pick whatever you like as a selection from the top two sections of the menu (nibbles and fish/shells) but it all leads up to the claypot baked glass noodles with Tamworth belly (pork) and brown crab meat.
I’m not entirely sure how it has so much substance to it when it’s seemingly so simple but it’s a very special creation. Cooked over a wood fire (the electricity on site is used for fridge and rice cooker only), the noodles stick to the bottom of the clay pot and every forkful is scraped up with generous morsels of pork or crab. Truly delightful.
And the wild ginger and short rib beef curry from Burma (order with Jasmine rice) is a triumph. Rich and oozing with savour, it’s the king of South East Asian curries and really set my world – and my mouth – alight. In a good way.
So hurry to Kiln – the queues are round the block – but you can leave your number and come back. For food that speaks (loudly and fierily) for itself and a totally unique cuisine in Soho.
And you can pop round the corner to Gelupo afterwards to soothe those taste buds.
Hands down, the best. ice cream. in. London.
Happy Christmas, one and all!