Test Drives

Soho's Chinese gastropub: we Test Drive Alan Yau's Duck and Rice

So what can you tell us about Duck and Rice?

To say this place was much anticipated is a bit of an understatement. Alan Yau fans, of which there are legion, have been waiting not-so-patiently for a long time to see how Yau's concept of a Chinese gastropub would pan out. He's taken what used to be The Endurance on Berwick Street and transformed it. Downstairs is a pub serving craft beer and bar snacks. Upstairs is the restaurant.

Where should we meet friends for a drink first?

Why make things difficult? Meet them in the pub downstairs - if you're particularly early you could even have some gingko nuts with Himalayan salt or some of the sesame prawn toast that we forgot to order when we came.

And where should I sit?

The restaurant's reached by an iron spiral staircase and it opens out into a large dining room, split into various sections. If you're eating a deux, quite the nicest tables would be the tables for two by the window looking out over the market. There are lots of large tables here, so probably the best way to dine here would be in a group, allowing you to work your way through most of the menu.

And the food?

This is a big menu - you might want to do, as we did, and order something quick while you take your time perusing the rest of it - of our snacks the most successful were the taro croquettes (£4.30 for three). Prawn crackers (£2) were those posh prawn crackers which, if we're being honest, weren't quite as nice as the bog standard ones from Chinese takeaways.

We tried two beer cocktails a Tank Old Fashioned (£8) and a Lager 'n' Stormy (£7.50) which were fun but might have been better in their more traditional forms.

And then we went to town on the menu - ordering much too much, the best of which included:

  • Half a Cantonese house duck (£24) - lovely lacquer and sauce. We were warned this was going to come well rested - but we weren't entirely convinced by the room temperature. If this is authentic, it might have benefited from being inauthentically warmer. But it was gorgeous.
  • Ginger cod with egg sauce and rice (£11.50) a generous and delicious bowl - one of our favourite dishes of the night.
  • Crabmeat foo young (£14.50) - the kind of comfort food that would sort you out a treat if you had a hangover.
  • Jasmine smoked pork rib (£14) - this was the cheapest roast dish of three on the menu but turned out to be some of the best ribs we've had in London for a long time. Surprisingly good.
  • Egg tarts (£4) - wobbly warm and fresh from the oven. Can't quite believe we made it as far as dessert, but we were glad we did when these arrived.

What about drinks?

Obviously beer's a big thing here, but we fancied wine instead. We tried two - one of which - a Cotes de Luberon, the cheapest white on the menu at £23 was only so-so. But a glass from the monthly finds section of White Blend 'Apol' from Austrian producer Erwin Poller at £8.30 a glass was utterly moreish. This is the first time we've seen the opportunity to try a 70ml measure of wine on a menu - but we're much too fond of our wine to have tried this.

Overall thoughts:

We dined here during soft launch (which we didn't know until the bill arrived) and, being greedy sorts, still managed to rack up quite a bill even with 50% off the food. We'd advise sticking to just a few main dishes and avoid adding too many of the snacks if you don't want your meal here to be too spendy. But what we had we really enjoyed. We'd happily return, maybe as part of a larger group to try some of the dishes we didn't manage to get around to this time.

The Duck and Rice is at 90 Berwick Street London W1F 0QB on 13 April. For more information, follow them on Twitter @theduckandrice

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