It's official - I've moved out of the 16-24 box! I've ascended a demographic rung, reaching the dizzying heights of the second half of my twenties, leaving the young person discounts behind. It feels weird - but also wonderful, and right. 24 has been a strange year - marred by the political tumult of the past six months, yet also magical and effervescent, marked by new friendship and love. Now, on the cusp of 2017, I can't wait to see what 25 has in store for me.
This year, my birthday fell on a Monday, so, indulgently, I stretched my celebrations over the preceding weekend as well (that's allowed, right?) I'll tell you all about what I got up to on the actual day in due course! To kick proceedings off, I hit Dinerama with some of my nearest and dearest. It's always such a pleasure bringing people from all the different parts of my life together, especially when such a gathering involves great food and my first mulled wine of the year!
On Saturday night, we hit Kiln in deepest, darkest Soho. Sweet Mama Lim made the booking after doing her research (convinced by a glowing Fay Maschler Evening Standard review). Booked parties are seated downstairs, so we bustled past the smoky open kitchen and descended into the dusky depths of the basement, where I had a mini panic. The basement is attractively decked out with bare bricks and minimal pendant lamps hung over communal wooden tables. However, our table was angled away from the main room, and was almost completely in the dark - and the restaurant had run out of candles. Perfect for the couple craving privacy on an intimate date, not so great for the blogger who paranoidly fears that her photographic attempts might resemble a visit to Dans Le Noir. Fortunately, my very patient family were on hand with their phone torches to ensure that I didn't pout too much. Thank god I was the birthday girl. (But still, apologies in advance for the disparity between torch-illuminated and non-flash photos).
Kiln, the newest scion of the Smoking Goat family, serves pungent, smoky Thai food. Your average Thai takeaway serving pad Thai this ain't. Here, the dishes are billed more nebulously as 'regional Thai' as influenced by the flavours of Burma, Yunnan and Bangkok's Chinatown. Sounds enigmatic and tempting, right? Well, luckily for you and me, Mama Lim ordered the entire menu. Happy birthday Tamsin!
Hogget (aged lamb) and cumin skewers in the front. These were smoky, fatty, simply exquisite. So unbelievably tender that not one of us could muffle a groan of pleasure. Peaking early, maybe, but I'd be hard pressed not to label this my favourite dish. It reminded me of the flavours and textures of the Xinjiang skewers at Silk Road. In the back, succulent, tangy langoustines with kaffir lime and sweet mint, which we liked so much we ordered a second plate.
To soothe mouths on fire from the spice: beer for B and a cocktail laced with turmeric for me.
Crispy prawns to be guzzled whole, and greedily.
Fiery smoked sausage stippled with chilli and turmeric.
Fragrant laap isaan ground pork salad.
A host of curries: a stingingly hot red mullet curry above, and a beef curry, sweet and sensitively spiced, below. Warning: unless it's your thing, be careful to avoid biting into any of the red-hot chillies. One of us (cough cough, B) accidentally chewed on one and spent five minutes in tearful recovery.
Noodles baked in claypots, chucked straight on to the glowing charcoals of the ever-burning fires upstairs. The coolest way to make noodles, clearly. Or the hottest.
The end result is a sticky mass of noodles, concealing a treasure trove of pork belly and brown crab meat beneath.
Not pictured but so special it's worth a mention: Kiln's wild mushroom salad, thickly sliced, earthy and brimming with umami.
Smoky grilled mangalitsa pork - delicious, but sadly I'd filled up on everything else by the time this came to the table! Next time I'll have this on its own with lots of greens and maybe some of those hogget skewers...
Captured by my sister: me catching sight of a cake, aflame, being transported across the room, as the entire room broke into song. Basically wishing the ground would swallow me up. B realising this, nervously. Poor thing.
And after? Onwards to Mayfair for karaoke (fuelled by several stiff drinks, of course).
It was great fun sampling the breadth of Kiln's offerings by way of their small plates, brimming with aromatic flavours and spice. I love that you leave feeling sated yet relatively hale, as the food isn't too heavy and actually feels quite cleansing thanks to the fresh fish, herbs and heat. The menu changes daily so I'm sure every dinner here would be a distinct and enjoyable experience (though there are some trusty stalwarts, like the hogget and langoustines, that you're certain to encounter on your visit). Although next time I think I'll come as a walk-in, gunning for a front-row seat at the counter to give me the best and brightest view of the action! Thank you, Kiln, for giving 24 the spiciest send-off.
58 Brewer Street
London W1F 9TL