For so long, we’ve had it shoved down our throats that fine dining means sitting in an over styled expanse of the increasingly outmoded white linen or more recent industrial variety. More often than not, there’s a front of house team that swan around like androids whose emotion chips have been underclocked to conserve battery life, and an excess of waiters whose sole purpose seems to be to refold your napkin about twelve times.
Well at Ducksoup, you’ll find none of that. Even the present day warehouse incarnates look less dilapidated than this irreducibly simple Soho eatery/wine bar. The checkered concrete floor has the same muddy, downtrodden look as a changing room floor when a rugby team comes in off the pitch. There’s cheap metal paper-napkin dispensers and backless bar stools to park your disgusting bum on, unless you’re lucky enough to land one of the very limited number of tables available. A conversation was clearly had where it was concluded that scribbling the drinks menu on the wall in great big marker-pen was a good idea.
I make it sound worse than it is. There’s nice touches like a vinyl player cracking out vintage LPs. The service on the whole is pretty decent, though my waiter did forget my drink despite me being the only one dining at the time. More importantly the food is just about good enough for me to overlook the pretension that stifles this place.
White peach, Pedro Ximenez vinegar, parmesan £6
From the bar menu is a plate of mangled peaches drizzled with a sweet vinegar and sprinkled with sizable chunks of parmesan. The peaches lack some intensity but get a helping hand from the parmesan which makes this dish.
Morcilla, broadbeans, mint £7
If you ever wondered what congealed pig’s blood soup is like, you’re in luck. Chunks of Morcilla (Spanish black pudding) melt into a broth of broadbeans and mint. The flavours mingle well but are a little underpowered, and the texture is too homogenous to be satisfying.
Razor clams, nduja £7
Things pick up with a delightful plate of razor clams that have been cooked to perfection. They are drenched in a gorgeous sauce flavoured with spicy nduja, which is a pork sausage composed of cuts from the shoulder, belly, jowl (lower jaw) and tripe blended with roasted peppers and a mixture of spices.
Mackerel, burnt tomato, harissa £14
Apparently cooked with a hand grenade is a whole mackerel, whose bloody innards are played here by a zingy burnt tomato and moderately spicy harissa, which is a hot chili sauce of Tunisian origin. The fish is cooked well with a nice crispness to the skin and full of that mackerel flavour.
Brillat Savarin, gooseberry cheesecake £6.5
To finish I have a gooseberry cheesecake, made using Brillat Savarin cheese, which is a triple cream Brie with a hint of sourness, made from cow’s milk. The gooseberries are expectedly tart and go together well with the creamy cheesecake. With the sprinkling of biscuity crumbs for texture, this ends up being a very good little pudding and a happy ending to a meal that gradually built in standard.
The food salvages this place from its image crisis. It wants so very badly to be a Russell Norman clone, but seemingly only Russell Norman can successfully splice his genetic fingerprint onto new restaurants. In some weird walk of society, stripping a restaurant of all its frills and comforts is what passes for hip. To put it another way, wherever luxury lies on the spectrum, Ducksoup represents about the furthest you can conceivably veer away from it, whilst still being considered acceptable.
food : 6.5/10
service : 7/10
ambience : 5/10
value : 7/10
41 Dean Street, London, W1D 4PY
020 7287 4599