Duck & Rice, a Chinese pub!?!
So I've been to a Chinese pub before, about 20 years ago there was a place called the Typhoon Tavern in Chacton (the border area between Chiswick & Acton) and it was great, nice food and plentiful Hoegaarden on tap back when it was considered exotic. The late 90's were a gentler time, I remember All Bar One being trendy. Anyway I digress, the fact of the matter is that serving Chinese food in a pub is a genius idea and I'm at a loss to understand why it didn't catch on. After all Thai food in the likes of the Churchill Arms is a West London institution. In the Typhoon Tavern's case the remoteness of the site was a problem as it's been through many incarnations in the intervening years. Duck & Rice though is a very different proposition it is bang central in Soho on Berwick St. It took over the site of a pretty decent market pub. I imagine this put a few noses out of joint but Soho is changing. Berwick St itself is more about it's street food vendors than the fruit and veg market, though it's still the best place to buy Nashi pears. Gone are seedy 'models' rooms but it does now boast and excellent comic shop GOSH. A lot of people lament the passing of old Soho but in all honesty it was a pretty grotty place and though some of the changes are ill judged it has been transformed into a much nicer part of town.
Duck & Rice itself is split over two levels, upstairs there is a “proper” chinese restaurant with a full menu and table service. Downstairs however is still a pub (more bar if I’m honest) serving a great array of draught beers and a striped back menu which you can order from the bar or your table. I’ve eaten upstairs which is very nice, particularly if sat in the window seats which give you a cracking vista over the market and Soho. Siting downstairs in the pub though is my favourite, it’s very casual and during the summer it had by some distance the best air con in London. The main draw however is the food which is superb and excellent value. My favourite dish is the duck fried rice which is a big bowl of special fried rice mixed with crispy duck drizzled in oyster sauce and garnished with slices of cucumber. it’s just lovely especially washed down with the fresh cold tank pilsner beer they serve. I’ve also tried their duck and rice (roasted slices of duck on a bed of plain rice) which is nice and the tea smoked ribs which are really tasty. The Dim Sum dumplings are of a good standard and all the food comes in a timely manner. it’s a great spot for lunch.
The fact that this was my 2nd most visited restaurant of 2018 (after Shoryu) speaks volumes. A bowl of duck fried rice and a pint of pilsner comes in at around £14 and is the best value lunch I can think of. During the World Cup it showed all the games which apart from England fixtures made it a great spot to head to. If I had a criticism the dark windows at the front are a little off putting and put me off trying this for a bit but I’m so glad I decided to give it a go. As I said at the top I’m really surprised more pubs don’t do Chinese food. When I go for chinese I usually drink tea but I have to say it does work well with a few beers (more so than wine). When people ask me for a Soho recommendation this is always top of the list. so next time you are up there pop into GOSH for a comic and get yourself to Duck & Rice for a cold beer and great food.