Ducksoup is exactly what you want from a bar/restaurant in London’s busy Soho neighborhood. It’s open from noon until 10:30 p.m., so you can always dive in and prop yourself up at the nice long candlelit bar. Once inside one may delve into a fantastic selection of natural wines by the glass (or homemade drinking vinegars if you’re not drinking), as well as delicious, well-priced, seasonal food. It’s both a destination for wine lovers and a comfortable neighborhood haunt with dedicated regulars. Now in its sixth year, Ducksoup is one of the few places in this part of town that somehow still manages to conjure up a sense of old Soho amid the onslaught of burger, pizza, and coffee franchises.
Chef Tom Hill’s menu changes every two weeks based on what’s available and is the sort of simple, hearty fare that rarely disappoints (and stays true to the title of his recent recipe book The Wisdom of Simple Cooking): You can expect dishes such as shaved sand carrots with yogurt seasoned with chili and coriander, pork collar, braised coco beans with bone marrow and Parmesan, or mutton chops from Daphne’s Lamb in Wales. The daily lunch special, £10 for a plate of charred mackerel or salted cod cheeks, for example, with a glass of (natural) wine is hard to beat in the area.
Benedict Clancy quit his job as a strategy manager nine months ago to instead work at Ducksoup, his “favorite restaurant in London.” He explains that “for our location [in central Soho], we’re a destination restaurant, but also somewhere people just pass by and pop into, not necessarily coming for the food or the wine, but looking for duck or soup!” As a result, the crowd is always diverse, and as popular with locals as with tourists grabbing something to eat before the theater.
Clancy explains how exciting it is to work with natural wines that are “constantly challenging you and throwing surprises. I don’t know why everyone wouldn’t want to work with something like this, that’s alive and playing with you the whole time.” Recently, he’s been enjoying Le Coste’s Rosato, which he says is “the perfect wine for moving out of summer and toward autumn, when you don’t quite want a red, or something as challenging as an orange wine.” He also cites the Ocre Rouge Le Rouge, currently available by the glass, and which “opens with blackcurrant, before going into stewed rhubarb—it’s really giving something at the moment.”
The ever-changing whiteboard of by-the-glass options usually includes five reds, five whites, a couple of orange options, a rosé, and some fizz, and the bottle lists are on blackboards behind the bar. I drank a glass of Hughes-Béguet’s 2014 So True Trousseau/Poulsard blend with a plate of chanterelles, butterbeans, and walnuts; Olivier Lemasson’s native Loire varietal blend, Indigène, with some wonderful deep-fried cured sardines, and then hit the fried figs in filo with fresh ricotta and honey (which I still think about on a daily basis).