If you’re looking for a fun place for your next date night, then I’ve got just the spot for you. Duck and Rice is a pub and dining room that serves some truly stellar Chinese food in Soho. Famed for founding Wagamama and Hakkasan, Alan Yau has struck gold again with his latest London eatery. In a box-shaped building with food stalls jostling the pavements outside the front door, Yau has created what no-one knew London was missing: a Chinese gastropub, and as incongruous as the combination might seem, it definitely works.
A week or so ago, I took my friend Arthur along for lunch, as we’ve shared a love for gossiping over crispy duck since our university days at SOAS. Fun as it is for lunch, though, I think Duck and Rice would be an especially good setting for a low-key date night (and have filed it away as such under my London restaurant recommendations).
The interior of the restaurant is sure to impress: downstairs is more pub like, with gleaming tanks of beer in the entrance, a sweeping bar and lots of cosy nooks.
Duck and Rice offers a terrific selection of beers and wines, as well as some delicious sounding gin & tonics and even beer cocktails (beer negroni, anyone?). I’m not much of an ale drinker, I have to admit, so I was happy with my glass of wine. I really was impressed with the wine list, which offered a wide range of choice, from very reasonable (starting at £2.60 for a small glass), to more decadent options. The tea list got Arthur’s stamp of approval (he was President of the Tea Society at SOAS, after all), and we ordered a pot of tea to share between us, which was generously refilled throughout the meal.
For our meal, we decided to go for a selection of dishes to share, starting with salt and pepper squid, prawn dumplings, vegetarian lettuce leaf wraps and spring rolls. Crispy duck, accompanied by handmade pancakes and all the trimmings, arrived too, and our waiter shredded it in front of us. The duck was superb: perfectly moist with crispy skin, and it has been a long time since I had such delicious dim sum. The squid was excellently tender, and we thoroughly enjoyed every dish, polishing off every last morsel.
(Thanks for being my hand model, Arthur!)
We were seated at a table in the restaurant proper upstairs, which boasts another magnificent bar and beautiful interiors. I loved the blue and white decor with touches of gold. It would be lovely to sit out on the upstairs balcony on a warm evening, watching the heaving crowds of Soho from above.
The restaurant, by the way, wasn’t at all empty over the lunch hour (it was packed), but by the time we’d finished eating at a leisurely place, it had emptied out a lot upstairs so I was able to get some clear shots. Heading back outside, we decided to walk off some of the excellent meal by winding our way through the streets to Holborn for iced coffee (sadly we were too full for any cake) at Fleet River Bakery. The perfect finish to a lovely afternoon!
Have you eaten at Duck and Rice? What are your favourite suggestions for a date night in London?
**This post was done in collaboration with citizenMag, and for another take on the same story, you can read their review of Duck and Rice. Of course, as always, all opinions (and those of my friends I bring along!) are unbiased and theirs and my own.