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Not cutting-edge, just really good: Sea bass with turmeric at Rosa’s Thai Café (©Rosa's Thai Café)


Do you remember The Beach? Alex Garland’s 1996 bestseller which poignantly skewered the Britpop zeitgeist in its tale of Western backpackers in Thailand and their pursuit of an inevitably polluted Eden? Such innocent times: Leonardo DiCaprio was still hot, Noel and Liam Gallagher were on speakers and if you went to a party in Notting Hill you could hang out with bronzed trustafarians in ashram trousers who’d explain why “Koh Phi Phi is like, totally, over now” between drags on a rollie. Back when Gap Yah travellers eschewed cameras and rolled their eyes at the mention of the “banana pancake” crowd on the Khao San Road, Thai food meant rubbery fishcakes in chili jam and green or red curry — we were still in a tizzy about lemongrass and holy basil. So simple, so Insta-free, so — quaint.

I didn’t make it to Thailand during my own gap year, much of which was spent signing on in Stoke-on-Trent, but I’m very partial to a chicken satay and a khanom jeep. Yet one must move with the times, and I’d been wanting to try Kiln in Brewer Street for ages in the hopes of expanding my repertoire. Kiln, which has just recieved a Bib Gourmand (the Michelin junior accolade), is an outpost of the Smoking Goat, a northern Thai barbecue spot which is not quite as cool as another northern Thai barbecue spot, Som Saa, across town, but Kiln may be cooler than them both, because actually the food is all cooked on wood embers in dinky little clay pots and you can’t make a reservation. That is, you can make a reservation if there are four of you, which means you enter all your details into their system in order to find out there’s no table but you’ll be receiving cheery little updates on social media every five minutes for the rest of your life instead. Or you can sign up for a sort of virtual queue where you give them your number and they send you a text after you’ve been hanging round in Soho for an hour and a half, or you can chance it and try for a seat at the bar. Good luck with that. We arrived on a wet Monday evening at about 8.30 and the line was already spilling morosely out of the door.

Can we just take a moment here to ask who are these people? People whose idea of a top night out is schlepping Up West to hang around in a doorway with their coats on being barged by harassed waiting staff and trying to make conversation sideways whilst tackling an obscure artisan mojito in a jamjar as their hair becomes slowly encrusted with the charcoaled grease of the grilled beef with Isaan herbs and stir-fried banana peppers that they are not eating? How did their hedonism gene grow so morbidly stunted that this counts as fun? Admittedly, Kiln is not a pricey joint but you could achieve the same effect by buying a cheap takeaway and sniffing it while going round and round on the Circle Line in rush hour with your face in a stranger’s armpit.

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