You might want to have a glass of milk with this article...
The duck laab at The Heron
Usually, if one asks for 'authentic' levels of heat at any number of sub-mediocre Thai restaurants in London, what happens is they sprinkle in a few more flakes, or perhaps chop up one of those harmless finger chillies. Worst case scenario (and this has happened to us) they'll add some more sweet chilli sauce at the table. Face palm. Rest assured that at The Heron, that isn't what will happen. They do not mess about, so don't say we didn't advise you to put your toilet roll in the freezer. The duck laab may at first lull you into a false sense of security with its fantastic whoosh of citrus and Thai basil and then… oh sweet baby lemongrass there it is… the chilli that hits you in the face like a 10 tonne truck of hellfire. You will struggle to remember your own name and start confessing things you don't even remember, like that time you got kidnapped by the secret service and woke up in Spain with a small pet dragon. Just a warning.
The Heron, 1 Norfolk Crescent, W2 2DN
The Naga Viper wings at Red Dog Saloon
The sauce on these wings is made with a full five different types of chilli, including Thai red chillies, scotch bonnet and the Naga Viper chilli, which is no longer the world’s hottest (that's the Carolina Reaper) but hey, it's up there. It probably won't surprise you to learn that these are on the menu as an eating challenge, along with their really, really tall burger. For £12.50 you can put yourself through a large amount of pain in order to get your picture on their website in the Hall of Flame. When we asked Red Dog Saloon about the success rate, they told us, "the hot wing challenge is the toughest challenge we have with only a 5% win rate. Watching people do the challenge is great - although it can get a bit messy, it creates a great atmosphere in the restaurant and generally people cheer the challenger on." We bet they do. This is a chilli that's over 500 times hotter than Tabasco, FYI. Over FIVE HUNDRED times hotter.
Red Dog Saloon, see website for locations (branches in Soho, Hoxton and Clapham)
The long pepper and pork curry at Kiln
The Tamworth (pig) shoulder and long pepper curry at Kiln is so hot, you won't know what to do with yourself. It goes like this: take a too-large mouthful, then watch from the corner of the room as you float above the dribbling, jellified mass that's left behind in your seat. It's nice, mind. Really very nice. We recommend you order it. Kiln is making really spectacular northern Thai food, see, and not all of it is hot. The thing to do here is to order lots of lovely rice to temper the heat and, well, drink some beer. Then some more beer. Make sure to ask for plenty of the ice cold beer when placing your order.
Kiln, 58 Brewer Street, W1F 9TL
The boiled sea bass with sizzling chilli oil at Bar Shu
London's Sichuan restaurants used to hold the trophy for the spiciest menus but have since been usurped by some of the other regional cuisines bubbling up right now. Still, they can pack a dropkick, and the boiled sea bass at Bar Shu is one such example. Sichuan cuisine makes use of lots of dried red chillies and chilli oil and this is a dish bathed in both. You don't eat the chillies of course, but that doesn’t stop them, or the oil, leaving their kick on that fish. Order plenty of plain steamed rice to go with.
Bar Shu, 28 Frith Street, W1D 5LF
The chilli cabbage or lamb shish noodles at Silk Road
Much of the food at Xinjiang restaurant Silk Road in Camberwell is heavily flavoured, yet light on the chilli. They make up for it with the cabbage. This dish consists of shredded cabbage (so far, so innocuous), coated with an extraordinary amount of fire. The first bite is where it all goes wrong, for it draws you in with a sweetness that has you coming back for more. We've heard stories about terrible things happening during eating challenges involving this cabbage that we couldn't possibly share but rest assured, it's no joke. There was vomiting. In the restaurant. The lamb shish noodles are also up there on the pain scale, but are incredibly addictive — super satisfying hand pulled noodles topped with an intense mixture of cumin and chilli. It's wonderful, painful, brilliant and terrifying in the same mouthful. Eat the whole lot quickly for maximum nose dribbling effect.
Silk Road, 49 Camberwell Church Street, SE5 8TR