John Gregory-Smith loved every second of The Duck and Rice in Soho
With baited breath we walked into the newly opened Duck and Rice. The exoskeleton clad Chinese conceptual pub from Alan Yau that has been nearly two years in the making. Well, if two years is what it takes for something to be this cool, then two years it just what it takes.
Behind two gleaming copper beer barrels, the ground floor was buzzing with diners scoffing their lunch and knocking back the booze – in the way that you only get on a Friday in Soho. Heading up a spiral staircase we entered the dining room. It’s unlike anywhere else; retro furniture, walls clad with blue and white flowered tiles, dark wood panels to divide the space and huge bright windows overlooking Berwick Street. The interiors are thanks to Autoban, an incredible Turkish interior design company.
Already loving it, we took in the menu over a bowl of spicy prawn crackers. It’s retro Chinese food, like sesame prawn toast, sweet and sour pork and chicken chop suey, given a 2015 face lift, alongside more contemporary dishes.
We started with prawn toast (£6.50). It looked like the toast had eaten the prawns. Their little tales sticking out of the fat sesame coated toast. The meaty prawns had a firm texture and a pleasing crunch. Three pillowy soft char siu buns (£4.50) came in a little steamer. The filling was rich and intense and the bun the perfect vehicle to soak up a mix of soy and chilli sauce.
Next the House Duck (£24 for half). A 48-hour slow roasted Cantonese bird that was served in thin slithers with the fat on. Marinated for 3 days, the flavour of the duck was incredible. It was moist and delicious and the fat was lusciously soft. We lingered over this for hours, not wanting to waste a second of this joyous experience.
For our mains we had Singapore noodles (£12) and Kung Po chicken (£12). The noodles didn’t have that nuclear yellow tinge, instead favouring a more natural look with crunchy vegetables, prawns and pieces of pork fat (naughty!). It was addictively spicy and needed copious amounts of pale ale to cool the palette afterwards. The chicken was perfect. Served as I had it in Chengdu, with as much dry chilli to chicken ratio. It was spicy and tongue tingling from all the Sichuan peppercorns – another cracking dish.
We had spent so long over that duck that the restaurant had cleared. So we took dessert by the window, whilst the lovely staff had their dinner. Black sesame dumplings that were nutty, chewy and an epic finish to one of the best meals I have had in ages.
The Duck and Rice, 90 Berwick Street, London W1F 0QB