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|Address:||41 Dean Street, London W1D 4PR|
|Tel:||020 7287 4599|
|Price: £45.00||Wine: £26.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12N-10.30pm Sun 1-6pm|
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One of the joys of working in Soho was (sniff…) the proliferation of small but excellent reservation free eateries that, while rammed with the bridge and tunnel brigade on a weekend and late week evening, could be sampled with ease by the resident workers. If I hadn't spent most of my career to date (sniff sniff…) in the area I wouldn't have sampled the joys of Koya, Polpo, Moolis, Spuntino and others.
Just before I left for pastures suburban (well, Hammersmith anyway) Ducksoup opened. Rammed with rabid crowds of get there first reviewers for the first couple of weeks (yes regular readers, I am aware of the irony) I didn't manage to get past the door. The handful of wooden tables soon filled and a queue developed for seats at their long bar as the buzz spread.
Descriptions of their back to basics food are scrawled on a small handwritten daily changing menu that gets handed along the wood top counter, like receiving wafers from a priest. They don't try and turn water into wine though, the former arrives in earthenware jugs, the latter – seemingly with a preference for the natural and biodynamic – is detailed on a chalkboard beside the bar. There's the sense of a small Presbyterian chapel as you walk into the calm light space through casual blue drapes, though if churches were able to generate the bustle and hype of Ducksoup, Richard Dawkins would be fighting a losing battle.
It's not that dissimilar in style to St John, though without the obsession with offal. There's a fashionable austerity in the 14 or so small plates (£5-£7 each, you'll need 3 a head) which proudly celebrate cheaper cuts and left field ingredients like a teenage music fanboy demonstrating hipster credibility. “You've never heard of puntarelle? Wow. We've been working with it for years, getting bored with it now.”
Hangar or skirt steak is another obvious example. The loose tasty fatty roll from the side needs to be slow cooked to tasty oblivion or, as here, flash charred on very high temp to deliver its bloody juices into a small pungent salad of the aforementioned puntarelle (a seasonal variety of chicory found only near Rome, quizhounds).
Elsewhere there are oft-forgotten leftovers from wealthier plates; duck legs confit, a big earthy terrine, pig cheeks and other rustic butchers cuts made good. Thankfully it is done well, there's a deftness of touch in the tiny kitchen. Grilled pecorino; rindy, nutty and salty, is a grown up halloumi here softened with honeycomb. I pass on glorious looking roast potatoes that come with a thick roast tomatoes and caper sauce (my kind of vegetarian side dish..) opting instead for a simple, refreshing blood orange, pine nut and fennel salad so good I can still taste if I think hard enough.
It's a world away from the well padded and ribald bonhomie of the Dean Street Townhouse opposite, and would be perfectly suited to an aesthete's second date rather than a good time gang up with friends. If you can get a table, or are willing to wait on the depressing Soho street for a seat at the bar then do, just make a back up plan for possible disappointment.