I may have left London, but I still have a few bits and pieces waiting in the wings. Starting with this...
Soho rocks. I love it. It has Koya, Fernandez & Wells (1 and 2), Mrs Marengo's salads (now at Mildred's), Bocca Di Lupo, Gelupo, Scoop, Spuntino, Polpo, Polpetto, Bob Bob Ricard, Flat White, Milk Bar, I Camisa, Byron, Yalla Yalla, The Breadman Cart, Cay Tre... the list goes on. Joel Robuchon is a mere skip away. I even like the weird coconut Bubbleology drinks up the road (never blogged, but my new addiction).
And now Soho has Ducksoup.
My first impression on entering Ducksoup is that it's exactly the sort of place I love to visit. London, indeed the world, needs more places that look like Ducksoup.
The white tiled walls are scrawled with the names of natural wines (although I like the idea, organic/natural wines still tend to disappoint me, with a few rare exceptions), there's a huge bowl of fresh walnuts on the counter for the cracking and there's a BYO vinyl policy for the turntable in the corner. It's a petite and character filled wine bar, with lots of cured meats and cheeses, small plates (£7 each) and a few larger ones (£14 each) where you can drop in and snack at the bar (love it) or chat at one of the few small tables lined against the wall. Friendly, keen staff are the icing on the cake.
I also love the daily changing menu (updated on on tumblr), which is hand scrawled on a bit of paper. It features things like slip soles, rillettes and cornichon, pumpkin with chestnut and goats curd, lardo, quail with pickled fennel and chilli and clementine, roast pork with clams and braised fennel, lamb cutlets with lemon and salt, chopped raw hanger steak, and a frito misto of langoustine, artichokes, sliced orange, sea bass and scallops. The people who run it all met while working at Mark Hix's Oyster & Chop House (which is fab, by the way).
This is a menu to draw people who appreciate good food that hasn't been over fussed, enjoyed over a glass of wine that will be different to your usual tipple.
My huge pan of clams in short, noodly fideo, fino and parsley starts off with a wow factor, but the alcoholic fuminess of the sherry becomes overwhelming and it's too salty for me. If the flavours were a little less heavy handed, I would have been in heaven sopping up the plentiful juices with the highlight of the meal... the delicious, thick, crusty bread.
The thick mayonnaise that came with the fresh Dorset crab was also divine. The crab meat was fresh and deliciously sweet, although the small morsels of meat come at £14 which is steep, particularly when compared to the load of the good stuff you get in the crab and pomelo salad at Cay Tre up the road for £9 or the holy grail of lobster claws at Luke's Lobster In New York for around $12. (Yes, I know sourcing impacts on price etc, but I'm just saying...)
The pricing is interesting because what I love about Ducksoup is that you feel like you're nipping in for a casual quick bite in a cool Parisian wine bar, but then you end up forking out over £40 for 2 plates of food and 2 glasses of (not as good as unnatural) natural wine. So it ain't cheap, even if you feel like you're keeping it simple.
There's a no bookings policy generally, although I was able to book for a weekend lunch.
So, I like the style of Ducksoup and I have no doubt it will be a huge success, even if not everything I ate this week hit the mark. All the cool kids that line up at Spuntino will be lining up at Ducksoup soon. I think they probably are already.
Ducksoup, 41 Dean Street, Soho, London W1D 4PY (Tel 020 7287 4599)