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Time Out rating:
Time Out says
Posted: Thu Oct 6 2011
There’s no duck soup on the menu at Ducksoup, and the owners are silent on whether it was the 1927 Laurel & Hardy film that inspired them (or the 1933 Marx Brothers one). But the name isn’t important: there’s little in the way of signage outside this sliver of a space to let you know you’ve arrived, and the hand-scrawled menus are similarly anonymous.
In this sense – and many more – it’s in the same mould as several other on-trend restaurants in the area. There are no bookings taken in the evening, diners can sit at a long bar and be served by the chef behind it; there are bare walls and bare lightbulbs and barely any decoration to speak of.
It might sound thrown together, but there has doubtless been a lot of thought gone into making it look so artfully nonchalant. It’s inspired by the recent vogue in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but it works just as well in Soho.
Ducksoup was opened by chef Julian Biggs, along with Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy, who at various points all worked with Mark Hix – and this pedigree is clear. Showy, precise kitchen technique is not the point, although it sits subtly in the background – food here is about very good ingredients, presented thoughtfully, served to share.
From the ‘bar menu’ we ordered a simple dish of girolle mushrooms with a few slices of triple-cream Brillat-Savarin cheese and a plate of chewy, garlicky saucisson sec; chef-owner Julian was busy behind the bar slicing a cured leg of pork and dishing up bowls of ‘tomatoes with bread’ – actually the thick Italian soup/stew of pappa al pomodoro.
To drink there’s Vedett Belgian lager on draught, or by the bottle is Fucking Hell pilsner from Germany – worth ordering just to see it on your bill. The wine list is written on a white-tiled wall beside the bar, and has a ‘natural’ focus – ie wines made with minimal pesticide and sulphur intervention – and all are available by the glass, with interesting examples including the grassy Binner Alsatian blend we had, or the bottle-fermented rosé de sable from the Loire.
Dishes ‘from the kitchen’ arrived soon after. Fritto misto was an attractive plateful of perfectly fried artichoke, baby squid, langoustine, grey mullet and scallop with a blob of saffron mayo, and roast quail with burnt lemon, harissa and crème fraîche was a great combination that added spark to the earthy game. Other compositions included onions with ricotta and bitter leaves, and ceps with lardo (thin-sliced back fat) and parmesan.
There's a complicated booking policy in place at Ducksoup: you can reserve tables any time for the basement or the six-cover grotto at the back, but only from Wednesday to Friday. The restaurant is already nearly as popular as the likes of Spuntino and Bocca di Lupo, which means you will quite likely have to wait for a table. The owners tell us though that the downstairs area, with its larger tables, will soon be pressed into use (initially on Thursdays and Fridays only).
Ducksoup 41 Dean Street
- Venue phone:
020 7287 4599
- Venue website:
- Opening hours:
Open noon-10.30pm Mon-Sat (hot food not served 3-6pm); 1-6pm Sun
Tube: Tottenham Court Road or Leicester Square tube
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £70
- 41 Dean Street
- 020 7287 4599
- 41 Dean Street
Average User Rating
2.5 / 5
- 5 star:9
- 4 star:2
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:3
- 1 star:17
If I could have given minus stars, I would have. What an awful night, awful food and seriously awful service. If you want to pay £10 for 6 mussels drowned in luke warm water, rickety furniture and staff that don't know the menu or wine choices than this place is perfect. I have had better meals and service in Mc Donalds.
Staff obnoxious and rude. Like you're causing them an inconvenience by being there....you'll be asked to move seats...they'll assume you're an idiot when its comes to picking wine. Avoid.
We enjoyed our dinner there - the food was of high quality - and found the staff quite friendly. Also, there is a nice buzz to the place (borderig on noisy). The wine list is ambitious and original; for any wine lover in the mood for discovery, this is a place to go.
Brass neck more than brasserie. I was charged £8 for a glass of wine which had gone off - and the owner had the brass neck to say that that was the style of wine in South Italy (after admitting the bottle had been opened "only 3 days ago"). Shame that the service is so awful because the food is good. Ask to taste the wine first.
A very unsatisfactory place to eat. I paid £40 in advance for 3 small glasses of wine and food that in its entirety could be fitted onto a small saucer. Throughout the evening we were given (or rather thrown on the nearest table) miniscule portions. There was nowhere near enough food for the size of our party and staff appeared oblivious to it. You felt awkward eating because you felt that you were taking someone else's portion. I will NEVER frequent this place again and I wouldn't recommend anybody else to.
I have to agree with many of the negative reviews below. I went to Ducksoup with my husband, following a mouth-watering review that I read on the Telegraph as well as the Timeout reviews. And I have to say, the place was a bit of a disappointment. The place is tiny and super-crammed - though the decor is nice. We sat at the bar as there were no free tables (though for some reason there was one guy siting a a two people table during most of our meal, drinking water...). I appreciate that Ducksoup want to accommodate as many people as possible, but they really could have left out 1-2 stools at the bar, giving each person more than 15" of space. The service is rushed but slow at the same time (if it makes sense) even though there are WAY too many waiters (at one point we counted 8 staff members for maybe 20 guests). The wine list is limited and VERY expensive - a small glass of house red was £6.80! The food is ok but nothing to write home about. The starters were nice enough (rare hanger stake, radiccio, pine nuts & Parmesan and some bread with nduja sausage). For main I had roast guinea fowl (or some other small bird), which was the toughest thing I've ever eaten - I could barely cut off pieces. Plus, it seemed to have still had it's intestines which had 'spilled out' and were incredibly bitter. My husband had some Moroccan inspired lamb which was fine. The whole meal was slightly redeemed by dessert (buttermilk rose pudding with rhubarb). The bill came up to about £60 (including just 1 small glass of wine as my husband was drinking water) - which given the size and the overall quality of the food was absolutely not worth it. In a nutshell, I think this place is really over-hyped and there are lots of other places (e.g. Elliot's Cafe in Borough Market) which od a similar 'thing' with similar prices but MUCH better.
I had high hopes for Duck Soup but the experience was a bit...odd. The general air was of a sort of haughty "aren't we clever?" sort of place. I think the mistake we made was coming for dinner in what is a very tiny and very loud space. Not least because you can hardly fit two dinner plates on the tiny tables. I think that coming for an informal couple of glasses of wine at the bar with some of the smaller plates would have been a better idea. The food was pretty good, although making a big deal about the bread (at a cost of £2) coming with unpasturised butter and then presenting 4 hunks of really thick chewy sourdough with the tiniest sliver of butter imaginable was a bit off. I asked for more butter and some was brought without fuss, but why not just give a regular amount of butter in the first place? I'm not sure quite what I was expecting Duck Soup to be and I'm not really sure what it is trying to be, other than too cool for school.
I actually did enjoy my previous visit to Duck Soup and was happy to return there last Friday, however - the level of service I received was one of the poorest I can recall, in any restaurant. As we were eating our main course, one of the waiters, spilled, by mistake, water on us and on our plate. While he did apologise, no help was offered to dry our clothes. We asked for a replacement of our wet dish, and when this arrived, were amazed to find out that we were served only 1/2 of the portion. To our question, we were answered that since we already ate some of it, we were only reimbursed by part of it. And I am asking - is there no shame in that??? and after having the waiter arguing with us for the reasons we were not entitled to enjoy a full portion, we were told that the level of service we received was of the highest quality. NEVER AGAIN WILL MY FOOT STEP IN THAT PLACE.
This place is a joke. Never in all my years have I heard such a pretentious load of rubbish spouted from the mouth of a waitress - "all our food is served ambiant". AMBIANT?! You mean cold? We were a party of 7 - starters were fine and tasted lovely but the thimble of baby squid at £4 really was ridiculous (see Morito for how it should be done). We all ordered mains and 4 sides to share. Two mains came out first, then 15 minutes later one of the three briskets we'd ordered came. Cold plate and cold food. I asked them to heat it up or keep it warm while we waited for the other mains and sides. I was then informed that "you should have been told but we serve our food ambient here and it comes when it's ready, not all together". So basically cold food served like Wagamamas. Also, why label dishes "sides" if you don't serve them with the food. In totaly it took 45 minutes for all dishes to arrive at different intervals. Also the toilets smell really bad.
Not impressed. The reviewer mentions "larger tables" downstairs. We sat there a few weeks ago and they are ridiculously cramped. The kitchen forgot two of our mains which arrived 30 minutes after, the now cold, side dishes. Simple dishes maybe, but lamb with just some lemon and salt seemed like something I could do myself in five minutes, and co-ordinate it with the other dishes. The wine is expensive and a bill of around £60 per head didn't seem good value.
I went to Duck Soup last night with huge scepticism after reading all the bad reviews on here but was overwhelmed by how brilliant my entire experience here was. I booked a table (yes, you can book if in a group of 4 or more, but would recommend people to try and book however many there are of you) for 9pm for 4 people - at 9pm our table was still not ready so we stood awkwardly by the door for about 10mins. The lovely manageress gave us 4 glasses of pink sparkling wine on the house to say sorry whilst we waited for our table. What lovely wine, and what a lovely gesture! I had been particularly worried about the wine from the reviews read here but realised on my arrival that all the complaints are because their entire wine list is all NATURAL WINES. This explains why they taste a little different and why they are a little more expensive. But if you are a natural wine fanatic like me, or even an educated wine lover, you will be overjoyed by their selection. The food was incredible (I ate with 2 high end delicatessen owners and one head chef so this is no mean feat to impress all of us!), the service was lovely and the atmosphere was excellent. The staff knew tonnes about the food and wine which really impressed me. I cannot wait to eat here again!
I have been here a total of 4 times since it opened and couldn't disagree more with the bad ratings. Each time I have been the food and service have been amazing. For people complaining about portion sizes go to Pizza Express (embarrassing). It's called quality not quantity. Adore this place.
Totally agree with the poor ratings. The food was average - certainly not what I expected after all the hype. But what I REALLY objected to was this: a group of 4 friends arrived an hour before the kitchen was closing. The service was lousy. I sent an e-mail and had a follow-up call with the manager, who, in the guise of 'caring' simply defended himself and the restaurant against my observations. I took the route of addressing this privately with them so as not to just write a review. What was really annoying is that the manager felt that because no complaints were raised during the meal, it made him 'unable' to offer any type of compensation. All I was looking for was some gesture: come back and have a drink on us, join us for a dessert, or a partial refund of the crazy £100 bill. Apparently talking about something after the fact makes in invalid - in other words, all reviews posted here that are negative would be ignored. Don't go here! Plenty of other choices. This place is overrated, overpriced, and don't understand the basics of customer service.
WTF! What's with all the one stars? Have been here twice now. I absolutely love it! (for dinner anyway) The atmosphere in the evening is great. It's tiny yes and loud and yes it is cool but in a genuinely relaxed way. The food, for me, is heaven! Just great ingredients and flavours and I like the sharing concept of different sized dishes. Some of the wine is a little unusual but in a good way. Service is friendly and effecient. It's not cheap (bread £2 for two slices!!) but mostly great value and we are drinkers. I highly recommend this place!!!
I definitely like the vibe of the place, the cozy atmosphere sitting at the bar, the old tunes playing from the record player. Like many people said before, the food is sometimes overpriced, funnily enough though not quite stringent. 14 pounds for lamb cutlets is good, because the cutlets were excellent, but 14 pounds for wild mushrooms is a bit over the top. But the one star is not for the price of the food. One can be well aware from looking at the card that this will be a bit more expensive. The things that degraded the good atmosphere and the good food was the wine. a) I have never been to a restaurant where the wine is put in the class by using a measuring cup. I mean come on - you are no cheap cocktail bar. and b) - and this was the most chocking part ever - at the end of the evening we witnessed how the staff poured the different open bottles of wine into one bottle so only one bottle of every kind had to be stored. This was done to the ridiculous extend that even bottles which had barely anything left were poured into other bottles. Sorry Ducksoup, but this is our end.
I took a friend there for lunch last week and can categorically say I won't be going back again. Tiny portions (£3.50 for a spoon of roast pepper salad - wtf?) below average food (dry, flavourless gurnard with a small piece of braised fennel for £7), overpriced wine and worst of all, cold and impersonal service, meant that the whole experience didn't add up to the £90 they charged for it. I'm sure you can do better in London. One to avoid.
The food was incredibly average, over cooked and poor presentation The service was student like/ unattentive for the price asked. It should be called Soup Kitchen
This place is seriously overpriced and if you've got a hearty appetite expect to pay a lot as most dishes are tiny! Service isn't great, they added wrong items to our bill and forgot one of our dishes. I'd never go back or recommend the place
I hate to say it but it seems as though we may have a turkey here rather than a duck. I ate here with two friends on Saturday at lunch time. The menu has all of the typical 2009 Lower East Side cues we've come to expect from new eateries in Soho, lighting, staff blah blah blah. Sadly these have been executed with far less sucess than in other recent openings such as Spuntino or Da Polpo. Service is indifferent (at best), seating at the bar is horribly uncomfortable and the food mediocre. My biggest problem with this place is the price you pay. I have no problem with shelling out lots of money for a meal, all I ask for in return is some feeling of value for money. This could be through beautiful presentation, excellent service, fantastic ingredients or an awesome atmosphere. Sadly Ducksoup only delivers on the over inflated price.
Agree with all one-starred comments... place is too small for a big plate of main. Starters were ok but nothing special.
I'm in J.J. Jenssen and Ritchie's camp leaving me slightly sceptical, based on my lunch experience yesterday, of the 5* (really?) customer reviews. If it's a cold and soulless experience you want, then Ducksoup will be for you. This might be confused also with being too cool for school - take the guy, I'm guessing to be the manager (shaved head), who stands at the end of the bar with his laptop looking superior in a thouroughly bored kind of way. No, the atmos was bleak, the service average at best and the food a pricey OK. Nice house wine though. I won't be going again - Spuntino and Da Polpo do it way better, with a smile!
Went to eat here after seeing some positive early feedback. Based on my dinner last night this was very surprising. The service was rather slow, with 5 of our dishes coming within 10 minutes and waiting 20-25 minutes for the last one. When we raised this with the manager who was rude and arrogant and told us we should have expected this. The fritto misto we ordered has a heavy batter, they also seemed to use cheaper ingredients to bulk it out. We had a lemon with rind included and an artichoke with the leaves still on, resulting in a horrible texture. Some of the fish also had rather large bones included. It also got served at too warm a temperature so it burnt our tongues. This mistake also occurred with the fried courgettes. The menu relies mainly relies on good ingredients as a lot of the food is assembled rather than cooked. From what I could see there is much better produce on show at other places in London and indeed soho. This restaurant seems to be on trend with small tasting plates but has a very long way to go before you would consider it before Barrafina (around the corner) Spuntino, Polpo or Bocca Di Lupo. Bread was also charged for, it had ok taste and appeared to be brought in and was slightly dry. We raised our feedback we the manager at the end of the meal and he was rather dismissive.
I loved everything about this place - the food, wine, relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff. My friend and I ate 2 plates of seafood - one cooked and one raw. If you like to eat thick juicy scallops and prawns that melt in your mouth, come here. Natural wines are all good. I particularly enjoyed the fizz. Will be coming back here again and again and again...
Had high hopes - great staff, tasty menu, special wines - but perhaps trim the artichoke before it's deep-fried so we don't chomp on woody leaves? And £9.80 for a kir? Along with olives, 2 mains & a £24 bottle of white = £72. On-trend yes but Dean Street offers much better...
This is definitely my favourite place in Soho at the moment. It's chilled out and cool without being too pretentious. I hope they open the downstairs area soon!
Love this place - top food and wine - plus very rude sounding beer... not cheap but well worth the money
Went on the first night (26/9/11) - We had lovely smoked mackerel with tomatoes and salami to share followed by amazing lamb chops and beef carpaccio with mozzarella. Wines are excellent - think all natural... akin to Terroirs' wine list We were also really impressed with the very unsnobby attitude of the staff. they look cool, but act nice... which isn't always the case in Soho nowadays... Individual ratings: food 5/5, wine 5/5, service 4.5/5, atmosphere 5/5...