Kiln opened in late 2016, the sister of The Smoking Goat in Denmark Street. Like its sibling, the emphasis here is on Thai barbecue. Kiln’s founder, Ben Chapman, spent some time travelling in northern Thailand as his inspiration for opening these restaurants. The wood-fired kiln at the heart of the kitchen was custom-made for the restaurant. There is an open kitchen at the far end of the narrow room as you enter, and the whole of the ground floor is counter seating only. There are a few tables downstairs that can be booked in advance, but only for groups of four or more. Sitting at the counter near the grill means that you can watch the chefs working, but it can get pretty hot sitting here given just how much warmth the grills and oven generate.
The menu offers a few nibbles (£2.90 - £6.50), then some starter-sized dishes (£7.30 - £8.80), larger sized plates (£7.50 - £8.75) and side dishes (£4.50 - £6.50) plus rice; there are no desserts. There is a short wine list, as well as beer available. Meat comes from Philip Warren & Son in Cornwall, and seafood is supplied from dayboats from the same part of the world.
A nibble of sliced smoked sausage with turmeric was excellent, the meat having deep flavour and being generously laced with red chillies. The cooking here seems unafraid to provide a hefty kick of spice (14/20). A salad of raw langoustines came with kaffir lime and sweet mint leaves, along with a spicy dressing. The langoustines were tiny and still in their shells, but once the fiddly business of extracting them was complete their flesh was sweet, and the mint and dressing a good accompaniment, the lime bringing freshness and acidity (13/20).
Roast long pepper and mangalitsa pork shoulder curry was a dark, brooding conconction that had plenty of hearty, spicy flavour and tender meat 14/20). Mangalitsa pork, long noted for its lard, went out of fashion in the mid 20th century and the breed was down to just under 200 specimens in Hungary in the 1990s. Fortunately for food lovers it was revived and farmers started to raise them again, and now over 50,000 are produced annually, including herds in the UK. Fried Cornish green with soy was not much to look at but was actually excellent, the greens lightly cooked and prepared with a vibrant soy-based sauce laced with red chilli (14/20). Jasmine rice on the side was fine.
The waiters were friendly and dishes arrived at a good pace. The bill came to £33 per person with just water to drink. If you had alcohol then your bill might be nearer £45 or so per head. Overall this was a fun and enjoyable meal, with obvious care being taken over both the ingredient sourcing and the cooking. There is no “cheap lunch” to entice diners here as the place is full all the time anyway. While this cost level is no bargain for lunch given the competitive options available (a three course lunch at Michelin starred Alyn Williams is currenty £30), it is perfectly reasonable at dinner, given prices in the area. It is hard to find anything to dislike about Kiln except the somewhat uncomfortable bar stools, but of course this is not designed as somewhere for a lingering romantic evening.Book