Octopus, parlsey and capersMore pictures
It’s easy to see why recently opened Soho restaurants Ducksoup and 10 Greek Street are considered by some as similar restaurants – both are focused on walk-in custom, both have a dining space that could do with being slightly bigger, both have a daily changing menu with a focus on seasonality, freshness and flavour. Reading critics reviews, and scanning the first page of a google search for both shows that people seem to be prefering Greek Street but after now having been to both I’m not so sure I agree.
On a sunny Saturday afternoon I popped in for lunch and the first thing that grabbed me was for a place that is seemingly across all the papers and social media it was all but empty. The seat over looking the street was full with it’s maximum 3 people sitting in a line and drinking a glass of red but other than that not a soul to be seen other than the front of house. I took this to my advantage and grabbed the seat with it’s back to the record player (pro-tip: it has extra back room) and got handed the days menu – 1 sheet of orange A5 paper covered in lists of small tapas type dishes, £7 plates, £14 plates and puddings, and a few random boxes containing info about oysters and aperitifs. Remixing a phrase made famous by Roy Walker it’s very a much a ‘say what you see’ menu with the ingredients being listed one by one and no hint of presentation or delivery (opposed to raw being included alongside meats where required). I don’t think I quite got the menu format but from what I can tell the food is served tapas style (or at random if you will). The concept of starters and main doesn’t seem to come into play as a few minutes after tucking into what I thought was my starter my main also arrived.
With a menu that gives so little away I ignore everything else (assuming no pineapple is abound) and scan the first ingredient in each dish and pick my favourites; this gave me a starter (or £7 pound dish) of sweetbreads, peas, mint and lemon – delivered to the table in a low ceramic bowl containing a light, slightly oiled broth containing the veg and herbs topped with 5 morsels of meat. The dish contained no real surprises and contained a perfect amount of lemon to cut through all the flavours – I’ve had the ingredient combo a few times before but having enjoyed it those times too it was a good starter and again a perfect choice for the muggy weather. I could have done with some bread to help mop up a bit of the broth and only when it was too late did I see that this is something ordered and paid for opposed to being provided as part of the cover – ah well, next time I’ll know.
It’s not that often when front of house warn you about portion sizes, ‘It doesn’t look much for a £14 plate’ but when wondering about whether to go for octopus or poussin this is what I was warned as a pre-cursor to his recommendation of octopus. Thankfully what was provided didn’t look all that small to me – 2 fat, boiled and charred octopus tentacles (suckers and all) with admittedly a rather meagre portion of parsley and caper salad to complement the meat (you don’t win friends with that stuff anyways so I wasn’t all that worried there). They had the taste of a 100% octopus sausage with the charred suckers providing a lovely smoked taste and also a lovely bit of textured crunch both to cut through and chew. The salad balanced things on the palate perfectly without getting in the way of the octopus taste making this a real memorable dish for me – both in terms of the taste but also in how it was presented; totally not what I imagined when I ordered.
Of the puddings and cheese available for afters my eyes were drawn by the almond and cherry tart that was sitting on the bar. For £6 pounds I maybe would have liked a slightly larger slice but only because it didn’t last long after the first taste as it was rather damn tasty. I hate to think of the amount of butter that was in it, the pastry rich and crisp enclosed the moist and naturally sweet almond filling and inset cherries in a warm buttery embrace that was unfortunately over far too soon but provided a perfect way to end the meal.
To be honest I don’t know what it was that has provided more praise for 10 Greek Street over this; I liked both but felt the cooking at Ducksoup was a step above and had a bit more skill/flair and I preferred the atmosphere of the restaurant. It feels a bit daft commenting on the quality of the menu as it changes so often but on the consecutive days I visited them that at Ducksoup had more to bring me back for more. While the dining space here was rather relaxed and hipster-ish (a ish-ness that normally is not to my liking) it was indeed so relaxing that during my time in there I totally forgot that I had taken a right off Oxford street a few minutes ago. It may not be possible to reproduce this calmness when there is a queue to get in and the bar is full with people but I can’t say – as when I was there I got a relaxing atmosphere and a damned fine meal. I could also hear the kitchen rapping along to a biggie CD they had playing, and that pleased meTweet