Since my mum’s favourite cuisine is Asian, I am always on the lookout for new venues we can try. When we were looking for a suitable restaurant to chow down on dinner before a theatre trip in London, I managed to hunt down the Duck and Rice, a stone’s throw from my Soho based office and a further five minutes from the theatre. Seeming to tick all of the required boxes, we promptly booked a table and looked forward to what we would eat.
Firstly, I loved the design and layout of Duck and Rice. Both the upstairs and downstairs areas have a bar, although downstairs has more stool style seating and upstairs has that more distinct restaurant feel. Large copper water tank heaters are an unusual centre piece for the dark, oriental themed wallpapered rooms, a black cast iron spiral staircase leading scenically to the upper floor. The patterned black and white tiled floor added to the elegant, overdone feel of the restaurant, although the main thing I loved was our table.
Uniquely, the upstairs dining area had what I would call a half balcony. Instead of a solid wall facing the small side street outside, it was a foldaway surface, meaning that the cosy sofa style seating hemmed in between the wall and the back of the sofa actually looked out scenically across the street as if you were sitting on a balcony. Since we visited on a particularly humid day, being able to sit in the shade of the restaurant yet with fresh air slowly breezing in was really lovely, and this quirky touch further endeared the restaurant in my eyes.
With the opulent décor receiving top marks for classy elegance, it was now time to see whether the menu was up to par. Starters had to be dim sums, and my mouth was watering at the prospect of fluffy Chinese style puffs and the squidgy dumpling style gyoza. Conveniently, each dim sum came with three pieces, so since there were three of us, we chose three dishes and sampled one piece of each. The mooli puff was served in its traditional woven steamer, the exterior of the puffs a solid white in colour, looking exactly the way I would envision a cloud. It was light, soft, fluffy and melted like butter in the mouth, sheer heaven, especially with the flavourful and saucy centre. I think I could have just eaten those! I love the texture of these, they are just incomparable with any other food.
The venison puffs on the other hand cam encased in a crispy, flaky pastry style cover, the tops glistening thanks to a sheen of egg yolk no doubt, the sprinkling of sesame seeds ample décor. The chunky, meaty filling was rich with a lovely depth of flavour, the sauce oozing nicely into the pastry exterior. The gyoza were once again a different texture for us to sample, the pork filling a bit lighter, especially when paired with the Chinese leaves. Soft and boiled I think, the hand crimped edges were easy to bite into, and while they might not look the most appetising, they sure did taste good.
Whilst supping on our pick and mix starter, my sister and I shared what was called a cup of Pimms. This was served in a large glass chalice, with a wavy fluted edge. The Pimms was filled with an abundance of mixed fruits, including oranges, lemons and strawberries; the cup presented with two glasses and a wooden spoon so we could divide the delicious drink and capture the alcohol laden fruit.
For main course, I had to go for the restaurant’s trademark dish of duck and rice. It’s very simple, very straightforward but makes for a nice, light and even vaguely healthy looking meal. Presented in a deep blue and white patterned china bowl, the plain white boiled rice forms the base of the dish, a juicy chunk of duck breast sliced generously on top, the skin intact and crispy, full of the wonderful, aromatic duck meat juices with a gooey hoi sin style sauce smeared briefly on top. Peeled and rustically chopped stumps of cucumber also graced the plate, but I soon palmed them off onto someone else – cucumber isn’t my scene. There wasn’t enough sauce for me, so I used some of the remaining dip from our dim sums to pour over my rice to give me enough sauce, although the flavour of the duck was superb. It was tender with that lovely game-like taste, succulent to eat; you just can’t beat that juxtaposition of the melt in the mouth duck meat paired with the crispy tear of the fatty skin. It’s a match made in heaven. The rice was a mere platter for the duck. The portion size looks small, but after our starters, this was fine and I was full afterwards, although if we hadn’t had been going to the theatre, I probably would have needed dessert as well. Asian restaurants never seem to do large portions when you select individual meals.
All in all, I really enjoyed Duck and Rice. We paid about £30 each for our drinks and two course meal, and the waiting staff were really lovely. Our waiter patiently answered all our questions about what the dishes were actually like as the menu is not descriptive in the slightest, and he even gave his recommendations on what he thought was best. He was the one who highlighted the glorious Pimms cups, so kudos for that. The atmosphere of the restaurant is a fantastic cross of London city slick with the modern copper aspects, crossed with the slightly fusty oriental intricate patterning, the black and gold tones maintained throughout the restaurant. A great spot and we loved our unique table too, I think I may have to visit again soon!