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Tuesday 7 November 2017

The Duck and Rice Dining Menu Reviewed - A Mixed Bag

Name: The Duck and Rice

Where: 90 Berwick Street, London W1F 0QB, http://www.theduckandrice.com/

Cost: A meal at this restaurant costs on average £50 per person, not including beverages or service. Starters range from £6.50 to £16.50, main from £6.50 to £45. There is a small, largely ice-cream-based dessert menu, priced from £4.80 to £6.50. 

About: A former Soho pub converted with no expenses spared by Alan Yau's team (who is no longer affiliated with this restaurant), The Duck and Rice still has an all-singing, all-dancing pub on the ground floor, featuring massive copper coloured beer tanks, filled with fresh and unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell imported from the Czech Republic. There is also a long list of ales, stouts and porters, and even a beer cocktail list.

Upstairs, the dining room is decked out in gorgeous bespoke stained-glass windows, discreet wood panelling and lighting and huge, hand-painted blue and white ceramic tiles, more like wall panels, which were commissioned specially for the restaurant.

The look is modern, elegant but unstuffy, and the atmosphere buzzy and lively at pretty much any time of the day. The Duck and Rice is one of my favourite dim sum eateries in London, and I visit it often. This visit however was to experience their evening, dining menu. The menu has a mixed-Asian feel, with plenty of Cantonese dishes, but also featuring a few dishes from Japan, Singapore, Korea and Vietnam.

What We Ate: We started with wasabi prawns (£10.50) – this featured deliciously fat sweet prawns deep-fried in batter, served with a delicate wasabi mayonnaise coating, topped with salted almond flakes. This was delicious.

Next up was the salt and pepper squid (£10.50) - well seasoned and crispy, despite the dull presentation, it was served deep-fried with spring onions, caramelised garlic and red chillies. We enjoyed this, though the portion was not terribly generous, I expected more at this price point.

The signature Duck & Rice (£15.50) is my favourite dish of the house, and one I order on every visit. A quarter Cantonese roast duck, with the finest, crispiest skin, this was sensational and served simply over steamed jasmine rice and slices of cucumber. Heavenly.

Jasmine smoked pork ribs (£16) looked sensational, with a tempting glaze. The meat was tender, with aromatic, smoky flavours, but for me the ribs were excessively sweet and sticky which sadly detracted from the overall dish.

Things looked up with the crispy duck fried rice (£9.50) - this was richly flavoured with the poultry and edamame beans.

The Kung Po chicken (£12) was a stir-fry of chicken, cashew and peanuts, spring onion, Sichuanese peppercorns, and dried red chillies. Kung Pao or Po is one of my favourite Sichuanese stir-fries, I love it spicy and gutsy, though The Duck and Rice’s version was again intensely sweet and with none of the heat I was so much expecting.

Our vegetable choice was slow-braised Japanese aubergine, tofu and shiitake mushroom served in claypot (£12.50). This was an exquisite dish, with silky textures and surprisingly intense flavours from the black bean sauce, Shaoxing wine and sugar.

For dessert, we shared a black coconut ice cream, made from coconut and coconut ash for a startlingly black finish. Served with toasted coconut shavings, this was creamy, intensely tropical and refreshing.

What We Drank: We started with a Hayman London Dry Gin, with Fever-Tree elderflower tonic, blueberry and raspberry (£10.50) - refreshingly aromatic with luscious red berry aromas. Equally good, the Negroni (£11) was classic, powerful and well made.

With our meal, we shared an excellent bottle of Franciacorta Corteaura (£42). Franciacorta is a fantastic sparkling wine from Italy (rivalling some of the best Champagnes in France), and this was a great example at a reasonable price for a restaurant, with elegant citrus fruit notes.

Likes: Standout dishes for me were the signature Duck & Rice, the claypot dish of aubergine, tofu and shiitake mushroom and the wasabi prawns. The wine list is small but well thought out and surprisingly reasonable value for money.  

Dislikes: Whether by accident or by our poor choices, the dishes we selected were almost all intensely sweet, which did not make for a balanced meal.  The jasmine smoked pork ribs promised so much but under-delivered in my opinion, as did the Kung Po chicken and the salt and pepper squid. 

Verdict: The Duck and Rice is one of my go-to eateries in London whenever I crave good quality dim sum. Though their evening dining menu was a mixed bag – some dishes were exquisite while others excessively sweet and gloopy. Still I would love to return and order some different choices. Recommended.

This restaurant feature is a collaboration with This Is Soho (http://www.thisissoho.co.uk/) which aims to highlight this exciting West End district as well as some of its best eateries. Soho is one of our favourite areas of London, although in writing this feature, The London Foodie retained full editorial control over its content as always.

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