Duck + Rice : Where Delftware meets China Blue
Alan Yau’s latest venture in a form of Chinese Gastropub has finally opened its door. I have been expecting the opening of this restaurant since last summer, and in terms of interiors design and dining concept, it does not disappoint.
Duck + Rice is conceived around the idea of Social Eating and cross-cultural influence between East and West. Bearing in mind that in eastern culture, social eating is all about home cooked feast, shared and enjoyed with family and close friends, whilst social eating in western culture is all about communal dining or drinking with friends and meeting strangers in pubs or beer halls. In this instance, therefore, the Eastern concept of Homely Cantonese Comfort Food is matched perfectly with the Western concept of Cosy English Pub. After all, the word pub is short for public house, and it is the traditional English drinking establishment that grew out of domestic dwellings. During Anglo-Saxon period, owners of alehouses would put a green bush up on a pole to let people know that the brew is ready. These places form meeting houses for the villagers to meet and gossip or to arrange mutual help or to exchange news within their communities. It becomes a focal point of the neighbourhood especially in villages, a place to enjoy down to earth communal dining, drinking, social gathering and other merriments. In a way, this concept reminds me of another restaurant which I wrote about last year, PACATA at 4 New Row in Covent Garden, where their version of East meets West was Asian Comfort Food in the setting of a world traveller’s home. Safe to assume that home cooking style comfort food are in trend right now!
Upon entering Duck + Rice, two giant copper ale casks give us a warm welcome. Their shiny cold exterior contrasts perfectly with the warm porcelain tiled Chinese flower-motif interiors, soft lightings and cosy dark brown leather seating. The ground floor is very much a modern English pub with contemporary Chinese influence.
Duck + Rice takes these themes of East meets West social dining and cross cultural influence to the next level of sophistication by translating them into their interior design concept which circles around the one traditional craft that Chinese and European cultures share and have been influencing each other for centuries, Pottery, particularly Delftware and Chinese Porcelain. This is something I have been pondering about ever since I left the restaurant after seeing their modern twist on this age old craft.
The blue and white tin-glazed style tiles were used throughout the establishment for both ground floor and first floor. It was very much the central colour scheme, originated from the blue and white tin-glazed pottery imported from Delft in the Netherlands which were very popular in the 16th century. The during early 17th century, Dutch East India Company imported millions of pieces of Chinese Porcelain in blue and white colours with exquisite details, which not only impressed many, they also were so rare and expensive that only the richest could afford these imported pieces. After the death of Emperor Wan Li in 1620, the import supply was disrupted, and that was when Dutch potters started to imitate Chinese porcelain. This very same pattern also emerged in England where these imported Chinese Porcelain and Delftware pieces were so rare that local English potters also started manufacturing them for the aristocrats. Eventually, Chinese inspired scenes were drawn by English potters on English style vases for use as fireplace accessories etc. In a way, the blue and white porcelain became a craft that neither belong to Eastern nor Western cultures, but shared by both.
At Duck + Rice, though, a hint of Chinese influence came in a form of stylised flower patterns on the tiles themselves, as well as the bamboo inspired balustrade on the spiral staircase.
The food also did not disappoint, they were well cooked and delicious, although, I was not particularly that impressed, but I think that is because I am half Thai half Chinese, so I am a little pickier than most. We tried the food on both floors, with my favourite being the light dim sum menu and fantastic varieties of beers and ales on the ground floor pub. I think dim sum with craft beer was a perfect combination, and definitely would be returning for more. I tried Venison Puff, Salt and Pepper Squid and Shu Mai while waiting for my friend, which were all great.
Then we went upstairs to the main restaurant dining room and ordered Crispy Duck Salad and Honey Roasted Char Sui, which were moreish. We had Chrysanthemum Iced Tea for drinks… that was my favourite… I actually thought it was a great idea, because I never had Asian style milky iced tea made from Chrysanthemum tea before.
We also tried their Vegetarian dishes, Spicy Kimchi and Tofu Soup, which was amazing.. I loved the sour and spicy combination of the soup… and Malaysian Vegetable Curry with Rice.. Not my favourite because it was too bland and too much coconut milk for my taste.
All in all it was a great experience, though. I definitely will be coming back here again for Dim Sum and Beer. It is the perfect place to meet up with friends for light snack in central London…