Ducksoup is one of those properly romantic “low-key” Soho restaurant / wine bar hybrids. With just a few small tables along the wall and a tightly knit bar that acts as a dining counter, it’s difficult to get a reservation but worth the wait. Despite being in buzzy Soho, Ducksoup feels relaxed and intimate, lit by candles in the evening. Part of the same group as Raw Duck and Little Duck Pickery in Hackney, as soon as you settle in you feel like you’re in East London. It’s got a relaxed, personal touch which is rare to find in the West End. It’s a lovely vibe. And feels even more welcoming thanks to the very friendly service from a team that are more than happy to share their top recommendations on food and wine.
The food menu is seasonal and written on a scrap of paper every day (the natural wine list is written on chalkboards above the bar). The produce led changing dishes keep this place fresh and exciting. The day I visited fortuitously coincided with the launch of their vegan menu – which seems totally apt given this restaurant seem to be expert at choosing top quality ingredients. Whatever you get served, it’ll be made using the best seasonal produce.
From the small plates, first up came the Blistered aubergine, spiced chickpeas, coriander, tahini and sumac (14.50). The dish sung with flavour – a gentle reminder of just why aubergine is one of the best carriers of flavour, when cooked well. That cooking requires plenty of salt and olive oil and this dish was certainly swimming in the latter – Brindisa’s North and South I learnt which is undoubtedly one of my favourites. The oil had been very well seasoned with sumac, bringing all the citrusy Levantine flavours it conjures, whilst the tahini added the necessary creamy finish to the dish. The star of the show – the aubergines themselves – had been cooked to perfection: probably fried, then charred till blistering flaming. How aubergines should be prepared.
Though briefed to us when ordering as the ideal light acidic plate opener to cleanse the palette, our Pappa al pomodoro, olive oil and basil (£12.50) arrived second. The plate, though small, still transported us to the Mediterranean – probably Italy – thanks to the sweetest basil (and tomatoes) I’ve tried all summer. The ingredients literally melted in the mouth – the tomatoes a mixture of grated and chopped, doused it more of their unbeatable Spanish EVOO and marinated in the sourdough mixed into the dish. So good is the oil here that I had to ask for a spoon to avoid wasting.
From the large plates, we were recommended the Cannellini beans, rainbow chard, apricots and pine nuts (£16.50). Though apricots aren’t my favourite stone fruits, this isn’t a dish to skip. A kind of summer stew – which turns out to work surprisingly well – this warm plate brought a kind of soulful roundness to the meal. The creamy beans were hearty and filling, the rainbow chard was cooked to perfection bringing all the green goodness that at least makes you feel healthy and the apricots were an eye-opener. Caramelised and poached, their sweetness was wondrous, offset by the nutty finish of the flaked almonds. It’s the kind of plate I wish I could recreate but there’s some magic going on in the kitchen here that’s pretty hard to match.
For afters, we couldn’t resist the simple desert of Grilled peaches and thyme (£8). Though pricey for a peach and a half, and the plate probably could have done with the addition of a dollop of (vegan) ice cream / cream, the kitchen here certainly know how to eat (or cook) a peach. After all, we couldn’t leave this restaurant without sampling one more example of their excellent sourcing, especially not when it comes to one of summer’s finest fruits.
Ducksoup is the kind of restaurant that will stand the test of time and a pleasant reminder that wine bars can be really great when they’re done well.
Ducksoup, 41 Dean St, London W1D 4PY