— September 26, 2012 —
In this column, Ananda Pellerin and Neil Wissink uncover the secret pleasures of the gastronome
Broad beans, radishes and baba ghanoush Photography by Neil WissinkDuck Soup’s notably small dining room can give one the impression that this is a restaurant meant for quick meals and constant turnover. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since opening late last year, this eclectic, modern European eatery in Central London – run by ex-Hixers Julian Biggs, Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy – has been encouraging visitors to stay for the duration, by simply charming them with its small but perfectly formed ways. Unfussy affordable daily menus, knowledgeable and friendly staff – whose efficiency is something to behold given the limited space – and well-considered lighting and music, all helped to lull us into soporific submission during our recent visit. And we weren’t alone; once it grew late and the lighting softened and the music turned nostalgic, almost everyone around us seemed to be ordering one or two more après dinner drinks than they’d initially intended.
"Once it grew late...everyone around us seemed to be ordering one or two more après dinner drinks than they’d initially intended."
A long counter with comfortable stools stretches the length of the restaurant, creating ideal perching spots for sharing small plates from the bar menu, or early evening drinks that stretch into the night. A scattering of small tables throughout are perfect for an intimate dinner for two (it may be small but it doesn't feel cramped), although we'd advise against going with a group larger than three if you plan to sit anywhere but in a row at the bar. The menu is comprised of everything from small snacks to mains, and we especially loved the rich and citrusy grilled quail with burnt lemon, tahini-yoghurt and rose harissa, as well as the simple but well-seasoned plate of radishes, broad beans and baba ghanoush, and the meaty leg of rare lamb, apricot, labneh, and hibiscus salt. Duck Soup serves only natural wines, and the waiters are good at helping with food matches for all courses – which is useful as natural wines remain somewhat of a mystery to many. The cherry tart for dessert was greatly enjoyed with Fernet Branca and Armagnac, ordered from the short but adroit liquor list. And while the menu can be a little inconsistent (a more careful curatorial approach wouldn’t go amiss as not every dish was a delight), the overall experience and the agreeable pricing makes up for this. Despite its Soho location, Duck Soup has a favourite local bistro feel about it, which is aided by the record player spinning LPs in the corner (you’re encouraged to bring your own vinyl), the messy chalkboard menus, and an atmosphere that nobody's trying to get anywhere in a hurry. This is the sort of place that wears well, and with the nights now drawing in and an autumnal chill to the air, it’s the perfect time to cosy up to Duck Soup - as long as you know that once you settle in, it’ll be difficult to leave.
Text by Ananda Pellerin
Ananda Pellerin is a London-based writer and editor, and Neil Wissink is a visual artist also based in London. More from The Hunger here, and contact The Hunger here.