This place is so relaxed in its fit out, it’s almost falling apart, but in a good way. There is obviously a big advantage in the current trend of stripped-down, lo-tech and natural finishes: low cost. Where the billing system consists of hooking paper-written orders on to numbered nails, and then simply inputting it all at the end, there is no need for expensive epos tills. Here, the wine list is written straight on to plain white wall tiles which look as though they were the kitchen surplus, and the rest of the drinks menu is pen-markered straight on to the wall opposite.
I’ve been there twice recently: once with a long lost girlfriend, so wasn’t paying the proper amount of attention to my surroundings, but enough to the food to want an immediate return. She and I had a selection of small plates ranging from £3.50 – £7 which included roast shallots and goats curd, and a really delicious fennel, orange and almond salad, a smokily baked aubergine and tomato dish and brandade with sourdough toast. We then tucked into a crab at £14, between us. All that together with a glass of natural white wine for my companion and Luscombe’s Sicilian lemonade for me, made a perfect lunch.
The following week I went again which was after Nick Lander, the FT’s restaurant critic, had voted it his third favourite restaurant of 2011, and the clientele had definitely shifted into pinstripes, who were perched cheek by jowl on bar stools. The menus are painstakingly written out by hand and the music is vinyl on a turntable. Carole King’s Tapestry was playing as I walked in. Declan, the relaxed and urbane manager is totally in control, and drops such comments as, “we’ve just had some slip soles delivered”. Which says it all about this place: nothing is planned in advance; it just depends what’s out there, and what’s good today.
On the second visit my daughter and I had roast pumpkin, walnuts and sheep’s milk ricotta, braised ruby chard with tahini yoghourt and crispy shallots, followed by the above-mentioned slip soles, simply presented with bayleaves and a charred fresh orange.
If you look at the Ducksoup website, it tells you all you want to know: a photo of the handwritten menu, address and contact number, no “philosophy”, nor indeed anything about the proprietors (who are Julian Biggs, Rory McCoy and Clare Lattin, all who have done time with Mark Hix). The focus is simply on the best ingredients, simply presented. No frills, no fuss.
The bookings system is somewhat complicated, as they will admit, so the best thing is to ring and ask if you can. This place has the feel of having been there for years, and hopefully it will be for many more.
41 Dean Street
Tel: 020 7287 4599