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.