What are your plans for the new restaurant?
Ben Chapman: It is inspired by the late night canteens that we went to in Bangkok. We’ve been more inspired by an atmosphere and an informal, relaxed, spicy, accessible way of eating, rather than regionality or specific food type.
Dan Bennett: The atmosphere we want to create is something we took from the Thai canteens. It will be a big open space for people to use how they want to, and we want to look after people in a different way. It’s not a formal, ‘sit down, wait for your table, on you go’ place. From the Thai canteens what we picked up is that you can be looked after incredibly well without being formally waited on hand and foot, and we want to recreate that, so customers feel greeted and looked after in the best way.
Ali Borer: We don’t want to be just for people who can afford expensive food. That’s something that’s missing in London at the moment. Here, you can come in, have some big plates of food, a few drinks and a good time and it won’t cost a fortune.
Who will take over at the original Smoking Goat?
BH: Most of our people on our teams have developed internally. Tom, who was Ali’s sous-chef and who started as a CDP before becoming sous chef and then senior sous chef, will take over the reins at Soho. It’s all kept internal, in a nice way, as it means that people are passionate about what they do and can develop within the team.
What’s the menu going to be like?
AB: We’re going for larger dishes, with noodles among other stuff you’d have when you’re drunk. There will be barbecue, seafood, skewers, sausages, and things to share, rather than people ordering their own individual food. We’re also going to be doing large comfort dishes, so you can come in and just order a big bowl of food. We want people to come here and find a flavour that they like, but also a big thing to share. It’s very casual dining.
Your menus require specialist cooking equipment. Did you take any lessons from the original Smoking Goat and Kiln when planning it?
BC: The main lesson we took from Smoking Goat is just ‘build a kitchen’ - we essentially didn’t have one when we opened. From Kiln, we learned to just keep things as simple as possible. Downstairs we will have Roberto, our butcher, set up to take whole animals and supply all three restaurants. Upstairs we'll have wok burners, charcoal taos and variable height wood grills, plus fish steamers. Kiln’s ‘tao’ charcoal burners work because they’ve worked for thousands of years - they’re made for doing the type of food that we want to do. In many ways, our kitchen is excessively simple compared to others.
Will you be renewing the lease on the original Smoking Goat?
BC: We still don’t actually know what’s happening with the original site. Nevertheless, when you see a site like Shoreditch it’s a very characterful fit for Smoking Goat. We’ve said no to a lot of things, and that made it easy to say yes when the right thing came along.
Will it be a challenge running three places?
BH: It will, but everything’s always a challenge. We’ve got a lot of great people involved, so the guys who run the business, own the business. That’s what’s key. As you get larger, you keep the feeling of being small, independent and true to your values, which is really important for us.
What are your plans for the future? Would you do anything even bigger?
BH: It’s down to our teams, and to what these guys want to do. We’ll never do something just for the sake of it, because it has to be right and everything we do needs to be good. Everybody has to enjoy it. For us, there’s no need to do it if it’s not right. We don’t have any set goals in terms of numbers or size, we have no investors, no roll out plans, nothing like that. We will develop at the pace of our people.
The full interview will appear in the November issue of Restaurant magazine, which hits shelves at the start of November. For more features, comment, interviews and in-depth analysis of the restaurant sector subscribe to Restaurant magazine here