Ducksoup 1

41 Dean Street , London, W1D 4PY

7 reviews

45 Modern European Soho

  • Ducksoup, Soho, London
  • Ducksoup, Soho, London
  • Ducksoup, Soho, London
  • Ducksoup, Soho, London

SquareMeal Review of Ducksoup

Imagine a land of small plates, stripped-back surrounds and would-be diners ready to pounce on your barstool the second you vacate it. Welcome to modern Soho. “Pretentious”, perhaps; hipster, certainly; but we still like the view from the bar at Ducksoup with a plate of pappardelle and rabbit ragù or crab with monk’s beard in front of us. The kitchen trusts its intuition and broadly serves what feels right at any given time of year. This effective approach speaks to lovers of blink-and-you-miss-them seasonal pleasures and gives the menu freedom to roam the globe. Spanish fideo noodles with clams, turmeric-spiced lamb riblets, vitello tonnato and Jewish chicken noodle soup all coexist perfectly peaceably here. To drink, expect a line-up of leftfield ‘natural’ wines in all their glory – well, sometimes anyway.

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6.9

Food & Drink: 7.6

Service: 7.0

Atmosphere: 7.0

Value: 7.1

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Matt P. gold reviewer 04 March 2013

In the language of Zero Dark Thirty, Ducksoup is a ‘black site’ of the hospitality industry that seems almost hostile to the normal laws of restaurants. If you arrive without a reservation (a certainty) and there are no tables free (highly likely) then you will have to stand for 15 minutes or more. There is nowhere for you to wait apart from in the doorway, nowhere to hang your coat or bag, and the only place to put your glass of aperitif is on the shelf next to the record player. The menu is a hand-written scrawl that offers no explanations (knowledge of fattoush, gnudi and queenies is assumed). About a third of the 30-odd covers in the place are seated round the small counter on hard metal stools. And the counter itself is so small that plates must constantly be shifted around to make room for new arrivals. To some diners, the whole experience would be akin to torture. To the contemporary Soho-ite however, there’s nothing here to violate any UN resolutions. The casual, snacky format of the place lends itself to the variety of cuisines on offer. You don’t feel remotely guilty about ordering as much or as little as you fancy, given the size and informality of the joint. Prices are at the reasonable end of W1 levels, such as a generous slab of wonderfully rich pork terrine for £6, a big pile of fluffy sourdough for £2 or a £14 bowl of slow-cooked lamb stew that you just want to dive into. Fattoush was the one misfire price-wise: £7 against an ingredients cost of probably 48p, but the stunning dressing on the salad meant we could let this one go. There are plenty of extras on the menu with which to treat yourself, including pre- and post-dinner cocktails, and staff gleefully collude in the process, prodding you to have a little bit more or try one more thing. When done with enthusiasm and a smile, it’s always welcome. So as a fun, casual, neighbourhood drop-in place, Ducksoup is definitely worth putting on the hit list.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Lyndon W. 11 December 2012

I have visited Duck Soup on a couple of occasions and I am so glad I did not read the reviews beforehand, otherwise I would never have taken the chance to taste some excellent quality food, great wines with a fun and bubbly atmosphere, I have discussed with others and really feel that the best dining experience is often when everyone gets the opportunity to share the plates, and this is what Duck soup does best, I have had some amazing dishes such as the pork belly, fritto misto, cod cheeks and best of all the Caponata which is wonderful. The wine list is very interesting and offers something unique. As for the staff, they could not be more helpful, this restaurant is not about pretence, where as so many restaurants simply about the image and fail to hit the mark. A massive thumbs up to Ducksoup and would recommend to anyone if you want some great food with a fun atmosphere. Lyndon

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 4.0

Heather G. 21 May 2012

“I'd like to do something different this weekend,” George announced. It seems that he was bored with taking the dog out for a tramp in country. I had just been conducting a twitter chat with Jon Spiteri – he of front of house Quo Vadis fame. Apparently they had gull's eggs on the menu. Anyhow it put me in the mind of popping into QV for a glass of wine and a plate of something nice. Another food friend was persuaded to join us and we found him looking happily looked after in the bar. Quo Vadis is a lovely, lovely place and I would really like to live there. Everything about it is just right with it's elegant surroundings and joyously uncomplicated food. I was ready to settle in for the duration but Geoff had other ideas, so after a perfect crab starter and glass of wine, we decamped to the very different experience of Duck Soup just a trot away down Dean Street. It is sparse to say the least and not really very comfy. However the three of us were in gung-ho mood having escaped more sensible weekend duties and were prepared to enjoy everything. First off this place is about wine, specialising in natural wines. The “menu” in keeping with the spartan surroundings was hand written on what looked like a bit of foolscap paper ripped from an exercise book. Difficult if your eyesight isn't great. However the dishes on offer looked like our sort of food; on trend, unfussy and seasonal. We only sampled three of the dishes as Geoff had by now decided we also needed to visit Chinatown for some dim sum. The courgette flowers were perfect, the clams were plentiful and our third dish of pickled herrings with broad bean, lemon and dill was gobbled enthusiastically by George. The broad beans turned out to be a bean version of hummus which seems to be on the menus of many trendy restaurants at the moment. We stayed just long enough to chat to owner Rory McCoy about the non-hangover credentials of natural wines, before pressing onto yet another lunchtime venue. Rory was charming and has previously worked at Mark Hix and clearly knows all about wine. Another quirk of the place is the LP player perched precariously on a shelf near the front door. The food is well executed and reasonable with good size portions. Since the menu changes daily I am sure we'll be back to sample some more tasty morsels. However it does have the air of a pop-up about it and I am not sure that it is everyone's cup of tea. I have heard tales of people having to queue to get a seat during the week so if you fancy trying it, pick your time carefully.

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

Jay R. bronze reviewer 23 March 2012

Another joining the new breed of no-res/sit-at-bar eateries around Soho… welcoming and informal as many others. Sadly, with the exception of a fine main course dish of Pork belly with lentils, the rest of the output disappointed. Our starters either lacked flavour (beetroot with goats curd), or contained sand (scallops). Being big a fan of interesting wines the wine list was approached enthusiastically – and ended up being a big let down. Unsure we'll be back…

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Grumbling Gourmet platinum reviewer 04 February 2012

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.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 3.0

Captain Haddock bronze reviewer 17 November 2011

Cool is the word I'd use to describe this place, in both the positive and negative senses. We were there on a wintery Wednesday afternoon, so I can imagine the stripped back little space feeling more inviting when it's packed in the evening, but the nonchalant service didn't do much to warm it up. Ducksoup definitely feels hip, though in quite a carefully studied way. The food, on the other hand, is a different story. There was nothing self-conscious about the roast chicken with aioli or an earthy compilation of pumpkin, spinach and girolles topped with ricotta or my highlight, a glass of sticky chocolate mousse with a dollop of creme fraiche on top. Wine – even the glassware is fashionable – from an interesting list was great too. Still, you can find other places in town (especially Soho) of this calibre and at this price that serve a little more joie de vivre with their food. If there's a queue of hipsters running down Dean Street in December, I won't be joining it!

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 4.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 18 October 2011

Duck Soup has clearly been taking lessons from the Russell Norman school of design. Whereas Polpo et al look as though a lot of money has been spent on making it look as though nothing has been spent on getting that shabby chic look perfect, however, this looks like the real thing. No money has been spent on decor. The walls are white painted brick because they couldn’t afford plaster. Or coloured paint. The wiring is bare as chasing it into the walls would be pointless; there being no plaster. Nor, it would seem, has any money been spent on staff who are able to take down bookings. Or execute orders. Don’t get me wrong, the waiting staff weren’t rude. Far from it; they were uniformly friendly and cheery. They just weren’t very good at waiting tables. I'd called a day before and booked for six. The one table that seats this number was booked, so we were sat at the counter. Much better, I was told, than stuck at a table away from the action. With such a large number, I'd been assured that we'd get the corner of the bar, so that we could all sit around in a U shape and talk to each other; easily able to share the plates. I might have been given the assurance, but nothing had been noted in the booking. The corner seats were all taken, so in a line we were sat; neither end being able to talk to the other, conversation stilted, unable to share anything. I was hardly best pleased. It is never good to start at a restaurant in a bad mood. To come back from here, you need everything to be perfect. So I ordered a few nibbles to while away the time until we had all gathered. The fried courgettes arrived and were magnificent. So magnificent that we ordered more. Like the olives and cheese that I had ordered with the first set of courgettes, this second batch never did materialise. When everyone was lined up, we ordered the real meal. In fact, we ordered one of everything. The shortish menu had five starters and three mains. There were six of us, all the dishes sounded good, so the maths worked. The idea, like Polpo and its siblings, is that you order lots and the dishes come as prepared. One starter turned up within about half an hour. More food came out of the kitchen. It all passed us by. A couple more starters arrived, but we had been here for the best part of an hour or more by now and my initial irritation was festering to feverish proportions. Then two things happened: the quail arrived and the table became free. This wasn’t just any old quail mind. Oh no: this was the mother of all quails. A Goliath of a quail. A quail that had been working out at Virgin Active; big, firm, meaty. Blackened on the outside, moist, tender, juicy on the in, wonderfully cooked in pomegranate and rose water. As perfect a coturnix coturnix as I have ever had. (Aside from the second that, having been successfully ordered, miraculously arrived.) And the table: instead of six of us strung in a line, we could mix. The food came and we could share; we could talk; we could laugh; we could order far, far more food than we really needed, or could ever possibly eat. The place became fun. The Doors playing on the gramophone (children, go and look both of those up on the interweb) stopped being overbearing and became ironic. The earnest young men and women trying to wait our table went from being comically inept, to just being: occasionally bringing us victuals, but mainly just not there. And the food just got better: well maybe nothing could top the quail, but the cockles, the buffalo mozzarella, the ceps and parmesan, the fritto misto (aside from the deep fried slice of blood orange, which was just plain odd), the cheeses, the crème caramel and especially the plaice all tried valiantly. That they failed has nothing to do with them being bad. They were all uniformly gorgeous, they just could not match that quail (or those quails, for the second was as splendid as the first). The place had been recommended to us by a master carver at Brindisa in Borough Market. Whilst he would be appalled at the ham-fisted nature of their carving of the whole leg of Serrano sitting on the bar, he was spot on when he said that the wines were exceptional: regional French, interesting grape varieties and keenly priced. The bill, like the waiting, was hit and miss: things that we had ordered but that did not arrive appeared on the bill, but drink that had arrived did not. As the menu changes every day, the bill doesn’t itemise the food, so it really is impossible to tell if we'd over- or under- paid. Really to go far, to try and out-Polpo Polpo, the amateurish nature of the service needs to be eradicated: imitation being the best form of flattery, I have no doubt that Mr Norman would love the idea, love the place and would certainly love the food. He would, however, be appalled by the monumental uselessness of the staff outside of the kitchen.

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