But then the surprise comes, the food is really good. Everything we ordered was excellent, a chef friend around the table agreed, and you look at the prices and have to acknowledge that it is also good value, with three courses setting you back around £25. Deep fried salsify, rosemary and aioli (£5) and Sprouting broccoli, pickled walnut, salted ricotta (£7) highlights well their style: no nonsense or finery, few ingredients but well judged, and great flavours from good cooking.
Indeed, when it comes to the mains, Partridge with lardo (£14) sits only on greens, but it too is fabulously done; just months ago, a partridge served in a Michelin starred restaurant was not a patch on this. The dish is again devoid of frippery. The small niggle here however is that it comes in a bowl (needlessly) with a knife and fork: as a whole bird that needs some knife work, a rimmed bowl and a flimsy short handled knife once again delivers awkward over easy. Ossobuco (veal shank) is served on a traditional risotto alla milanese, much then that can go wrong here, but nothing really does, there's talent in the kitchen for sure.
Desserts offered fewer choices (three in fact) and a panna cotta is billed as a 'buttermilk and rose pudding' with rhubarb while Bergamot marmalade ice cream is served in a cheap water glass (style or cost cutting?). Not quite an afterthought but pudding is not where the heart of the kitchen lies.
Ducksoup is open throughout the day, and while we don't know if they continue to experience peak hour queues as they did when they first opened, we nevertheless chose mid afternoon to avoid any bustle. At this time however, front of house was frustratingly absent. We appreciate that staff might want downtime between lunch and dinner, but if the restaurant is open, customers should be attended.
There is some magic in the cooking, but something essential gets lost between the kitchen and the enjoyment of the meal because despite being open for more than a year, eating here feels like a pop up gig on its first night but without the energy that might otherwise carry you over the slips. For some, the place will be smart enough that food and ambience will combine to deliver a special night out, but for us, and many others we suspect, you'll leave wishing there were just a few creature comforts available and that staff would trade a little cool for a little caring.