Simple times, simple pleasures.
Such was seemingly the theme at Duck Soup, one of a few recent openings that center on small portions and great wine. Family was in town for the weekend, and I wanted to welcome them with a familial meal, and I’m not talking ‘family-style’ at Boston Market. There is no better way to complement casual conversation than with passing of plates and an unending open bottle, and the simple sound of Duck Soup seemed just right.
After bustling through the narrow bar and front room, which was packed with a diverse cast of characters including Margot Henderson of the Rochelle Canteen (a presence that sealed the solid initial impression), we descended into a more spacious basement with a central bar to serve as a hub for candlelit tables to cosy around. Although it was nearly empty when we arrived, the room quickly packed out and the funk from the turntable in the corner combined with the lively chatter.
We started with a crisp chilled Barbera, recommended by the waitress, which was light enough to prime our palates for the feast ahead.
And feast we did -
We started with many of the small plates listed on the daily-changing handwritten menu (which only added to the rustic, personal appeal of the restaurant): chewy bread; a lush purée of beetroot topped with yogurt and spiced with za’atar; an almost-carpaccio combo of courgettes, rocket, parmesan and pepper; sprouting broccoli with perhaps overly fishy but delightfully crunchy anchovy bread crumbs; and ‘Manx Queenies’, tiny scallops from the Isle of Man, which were served in their elegant shells with cubes of courgettes and flecks of chilli that should have made the taste crackle, but instead provided more visual spark. The most successful, something I would alone return for, was a warm and creamy caciotta, fried with a crunchy honeycomb crust and scented with a sprinkle of thyme.
We then moved ‘bar food’ to ‘kitchen’, the only indication of portion size: a classic and light marinated seabass with cross-sections of blood orange, slivers of fennel and chilli for a kick; a perfectly extravagant risotto Milanese with a glorious sawn marrow bone stuck in the center of the rich golden slurry; and a hunk of 7-hour lamb shoulder, nestled in white beans soaked in its hearty gravy and cut with bitter greens.
Although small plates give the illusion of an endless meal, eventually the evening had come to a close to get two jet-lagged jet-setters into bed. We finished with a raclette-worthy St Marcelin, to ooze over crusty grilled bread, and tiny thimble-like glasses of Poire William, all the better to enjoy each other’s company.
41 Dean Street, Soho, W1D 4PY