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Ducksoup

by Ross Bruniges on July 29th, 2012

At a glance

Ducksoup

Chef: Julian Biggs

Reservations: 020 7287 4599

Rating: 8 out of 10

Cost : £25-£50

Location

41 Dean Street

London

W1D 4PY

Map

Location map

Don't just take my word for it

Ducksoup on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

In photos

Ducksoup

Octopus, parlsey and capers

More 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.

The restaurant space

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.

Sweetbreads, peas, mint, lemon

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.

Octopus, parsley, lemon

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 me :)

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