[London] The Duck and Rice at Berwick Street, Soho is undoubtedly a pretty restaurant.
Carrying the reputation of Alan Yau, the man behind Wagamama, Hakkasan and Yauatcha, there tends to be certain expectations of delicacy and luxury associated with the décor of his restaurants.
But it must be said that in terms of the food, one can justly assert that there are far better places to eat Chinese food in London.
This not to say that the experience at The Duck and Rice is necessarily a bad one, far from it, but the restaurant coheres to a different kind of clientele.
For example, if one is in London and is both desperately in need of a pint as well as a hearty meal of Chinese food, they will soon find that The Duck and Rice is perfect for their needs.
The place itself, as aforementioned, is well decked up.
Pretty ceramic wall tiles of blue and white patterns, geometric metal partitions and window panes, brass beer barrels stacked atop each other as you enter, and a spiral staircase made with ornately designed iron that leads to the restaurant on the upper floor.
Now, while I did infer that the cooking at the establishment is not remarkable per se, their food is tasty and comfortable for casual diners.
At the gastropub, you get a large menu sheet with a pencil, requiring you to tick off what you would like and then hand it in to the waitress.
From small chow, chop suey and bao buns to rice, noodles and dim sum, there is a vast selection of Chinese and Taiwanese options to choose from.
My partner and I ordered a selection of meat and vegetarian dishes to test the variety and were both pleased and disappointed.
In terms of dim sum, the restaurant does quite well. Scallop Shu Mai (£8.20, SGD14.30) come in three pieces, steaming hot and succulent.
The vegetable dumplings (£5, SGD8.70) that are filled primarily with soy marinated mushrooms are scrumptious too, offering a sweet savoury flavour that charms you into ordering more.
The five-spice fried chicken (£6, SGD10.50) looked incredibly inviting but was lacking in some regards.
While the chicken itself was immaculately cooked, the actual flavour of the spices did not quite come through.
It is amusing that perhaps the best and most disappointing dishes came alongside each other.
The smoked mock duck bao buns (£13 for 3, SGD22.70) did have all the makings of a dish set to please, but unfortunately the sauce that accompanied the mock duck was too smoky to stand.
After a bit of the bao, it was very difficult to taste much else.
I will say, however, that the texture of the vegetarian duck equivalent was pretty spot on. If they tweaked the sauce, I’m pretty sure it could be a hit.
For me, the duck and rice (£15.50), the restaurant’s namesake dish was the best of the lot.
The quarter portion of Cantonese roast duck came perfectly cooked, with crisp skin, fat well rendered and sauce perfectly balanced, sitting atop a mound of steaming hot rice and chunks of cool cucumber.
If I ever visited again, I probably would only order a bowl of duck and rice, with some dim sum besides.
The Duck and Rice exhibits a concept that is different from most in the Soho area.
It offers a unique combination of Chinese food with pints of Pilsner beer for those who drink that invites plenty of warranted interest.
While the food itself is just a tad above average, the experience of the restaurant itself seems to excite London foodies.
* Written by DFD’s London Food Correspondent Leander Dias SaltyCritic. Leander Dias was born and raised in Dubai, a burgeoning city with diverse food culture. Since moving to London to read for his English MA at UCL, he has utterly immersed himself in the local food scene, writing extensively about everything he eats everywhere he goes. Daniel’s Food Diary pays for food reviewed unless otherwise stated.