Restaurant Review: Ducksoup

Small is most definitely beautiful at this understated Soho gem

We were a little early for our dinner reservation at Ducksoup, but we were still surprised to find it looking decidedly closed – pitch dark from the outside, with no sign of life through the window. Somewhat strange, but we decided to go for at stroll and pop back later to see if there was anything going on.

Seven o’clock came and we approached the same darkened facade we had passed earlier. The door opened, but only to reveal a heavy, dark curtain on the inside. It all felt kind of secretive, and it built our curiosity to find out what was on the other side – which, as it turned out, was not a great deal! The room is tiny: no more than five two-seater tables around the edge of the room, along with space for another 10 or 12 people on stools at the bar.

The place has a very interesting feel, unlike any restaurant I’ve been to before. It’s so rustic that it’s quite literally falling apart in places, but somehow it manages to make that a good thing. The walls are roughly whitewashed bricks, the dim light is provided by uncovered bulbs dangling loosely from beneath shelves that are supporting hundreds of dusty old wine bottles – yet nothing seems out of place.

Our seat for the evening was at the side of the bar looking out over the rest of the room. And this is a room which in itself provides plenty of conversation pieces, from the turntable in the corner providing the music, to the way the staff have to squeeze past each other, almost comically, along the impossibly narrow aisle between the bar stools and the tables. The downside for us was a severe lack of legroom, with our knees pressed firmly into a solid surface throughout our stay – a lack of comfort shouldn’t be on a conversation topic list when you’re out on a date, but for us it unfortunately kept popping up.

The staff knew the small menu inside out; this doesn’t sound like much of a task, but considering the options change daily, we were thoroughly impressed. On top of this, there was a passion and joy in the way we were talked through the wines which really stood out. We opted for a brilliantly light and fruity number, the first we tried, although the offer of more tasters was available. All measures bigger than a glass are served in beautiful heavy decanters, which is a lovely touch. The staff clearly know how service should work; they seem to blend easily into the background but are always around when needed and never struggled with any of our questions or requests.

The small sharing plates we had to start were real delights. The simple salami was great and the shrimp fritters provided flavour in abundance. Following this we opted for quail and lamb. Neither dish was quite as expected, but each was delicious. The lamb was almost a stew; the meat, cooked in a milky broth, was melt-in-the-mouth tender and accompanied by cannellini beans. The quail was roasted to perfection and served with a yoghurt-based sauce, kohlrabi cabbage and pomegranate seeds, which provided a fantastically sweet flavour with the meat. No dish was going to win an award for presentation, but it was wholesome comfort food, which really fit with the atmosphere and enhanced the experience.

The blood orange tart comes highly recommended for dessert. Not quite feeling we had the space for a slice each, we took one to share, and even that was a bit of a struggle. The crust was lovely and light, and the filling a vibrant orange, both in colour and flavour.

All in all, I’d say Ducksoup has the makings of great date venue. My advice would be that if you’re looking for somewhere you can spend the entire evening over drinks and dinner, phone in advance and request one of the tables. For a shorter stop, perhaps a couple of small sharing plates and glass or two of wine, the stools at the bar provide the perfect set-up, and it’s certainly something pleasantly different from the average wine bar.

www.ducksoupsoho.co.uk

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