It’s one of those places in Soho I’ve walked past a hundred times and never been in – not least cos you’d struggle to fit a small Ewok family into the interior.
Somehow the sardine-can set-up comes off as charming – don’t know how that happened. Maybe it’s the record player that the staff have to rush to set off every 40 minutes or so; or the local creatives who talk with REALLY. GENUINE AND INTERESTED. FACES. Either way, walking into Duck Soup feels like you’ve stepped into classic Soho.
V and I drink in the vibes whilst nibbling on petit lucques & gaele olives – otherwise known as ‘olives’ – and some crunchy market pickles (turnip? Fuck knows.) We sipped a demi tango and demi peche each, half pints of beer with different flavoured fruit syrup. I’ve been drinking beer, cider and blackcurrant (aka pints of Diesel) since Freshers’ week so I must practically be a connoisseur.
Dishes change daily hence the handwritten menu, another nice little touch that makes you feel at home. I devoured the lion’s share of a peppery charred sourdough bread topped with salted anchovy fillets and juicy artichoke. The anchovies were particularly memorable, almost like boquerones in their delicate flavour. Like most of the food, it’s simple but special.
You’re probably best ordering 4 or 5 plates between two as they’re not huge. In no particular order we were brought warm salt cod with capers, parsley and tropea onions (sharp, lemony, delicious), then a portion of ‘Tentation’ cheese with poppyseed crispbread. There were hints of blue about the cheese but it wasn’t overpowering, just the way I like it.
Hot dishes are slightly larger with heavy rustic Italian influence. I’d never had gnudi before and wasn’t too enamoured with them to be honest. The texture conjured up mental images of Battenberg cake – though I lapped up the oil-doused nettles, walnuts and parmesan.
The rabbit with fennel and casteluccio lentils, on the other hand, was – as one friend recently regretted describing a meal, having been ruined for it ever since – ‘heavenly’. Lentils soaked up the meaty stock to make a beautifully rich and vibrant-looking stew. We didn’t need the Jersey royals and wild garlic, and it didn’t really match anything else. But who doesn’t like wild garlic?
I’m a big fan of Duck Soup – but it’s a pricey little bugger. Swirling a glass of something red and lovely from Puglia, pretending to know what the fuck I’m doing, I watch V let out a little wince as she unfolds the bill. She’s already insisted that tonight’s on her, and who am I to argue? £90 for a bit of bread and some lentils , ta very much. My advice is put the fleecing to one side, focus on the great homespun food, and revel in your dinner invite into the Soho Illuminati.
41 Dean St, Soho W1D 4PY