June 30, 2018
Being a vegetarian, I hate it when I’m out with friends and they feel the need to cater for one person, namely me, by going to a fully vegetarian (or shock horror, vegan) restaurant.
I don’t know about all the other vegetarians out there, but while I appreciate the thought, I prefer to be out at “normal” restaurants and enjoy the vegetarian choices there. Vegetarian-only restaurants seem to try a little too hard going places with a carrot that nobody has ever been before, and in their goal to show how effortless it is to avoid meat, it simply becomes a chore.
So I want to dispel the myth that vegetarians don’t have options. Embrace the humble “v” that cosies up next to dishes on the menu; the universal symbol that reassures vegetarians across the globe as if Matt McConaughey were saying, “alright, alright, alright.”
So here is my first review.
Image courtesy of The Telegraph
What better way than to start with The Duck and Rice, located in the buzzing heart of Soho, London. I’ve been here not once, not twice, but three times now.
Bookings can be a little difficult seeing that the first-floor restaurant is quite small, meaning that spaces during peak hours (especially on Fridays) get filled faster than you can say “Let’s meet at The Duck and Rice.” Book two weeks in advance to avoid disappointment. My fellow diner somehow managed to get a 6pm slot on the same morning; perhaps a pleasantly surprising exception to the rule.
Classy yet informal oozing sophistication without pretentiousness. It has elements of a Gatsby-esque joint without too much fanfare. The restaurant is on the first floor, accessible via a discrete spiral staircase.
It’s a great place for colleagues to meet up after a long week at work or for a 29th birthday bash. It certainly has a youthful vibe about it without it being discriminatory – we also witnessed a few awkward dates and family gatherings tucked away in the corners.
By 7pm, good luck trying to hold a conversation without having to lean forwards to hear the person across from you.
There is a 2 hour limit given the popularity of the place, so do expect to be given a subtle nudge to vacate the premises by then.
Nestled between Oxford Circus (Central Line) and Piccadilly Circus, it’s a short 6 minute walk from both.
Chinese – traditional dishes with a modern touch
Vegetarian options: ★★★★☆
- Lettuce leaf wrap (yam bean, mock chicken, taro, black bean) (v) … £8.00
- Smoked mock duck bao (v) … £13.00
- Sichuan vegetable dumpling (v) … £5.00
- Vegetable spring roll (v) … £4.90
- Goji berry and baby spinach dumpling (v) … £4.80
- Vegetable yakisoba (v) … £9.50
- Grill jasmine smoked mock duck (v) … £13.00
- Black pepper mock chicken (v) … £12.50
- Hakka paneer (v) … £9.50
- Stir-fried vegetable udon (v) … £10.50
- Gai lan with ginger (v) … £9.90
- Pak choi with garlic (v) … £9.90
- Japanese aubergine and tofu claypot (v) … £12.50
What I ate: ★★★☆☆
- Black pepper mock chicken (v) … £12.50 ★★★★★
Simply superb. The mock chicken was marinated to perfection and the okra was a good pairing without the sauce being overpowering. Chillis and garlic added to a winning combination.
- Grill jasmine smoked mock duck (v) … £13.00 ★★☆☆☆
The choice of protein was not the best I’ve had when it comes to vegetarian duck. The result being that it didn’t have the right texture or flavour. Lotus roots felt like a confusing combination, despite its aesthetic appeal. However, the dish was a good counterpoint to the mock chicken to balance out the flavours.
- Jasmine rice (v) … £3.50 ★★★☆☆
Very generously sized portion that can feed for two. The rice was good quality but could have been fluffier. (I’m sorry, I’m very particular with my grains.)
Portion size: ★★★★★
Total cost: £32.63 (incl. 12.5% service charge)
Where to go after:
- The Comedy Store – right around Piccadilly Circus, if you’re in for some laughs
- St James’ Park – perfect place for a post-meal stroll during the summer, where you’ll see the locals perched on the grass long into the night. Ducks there are guaranteed not to be eaten
- Caffè Concerto – for an informal dessert if you’re still feeling peckish and craving carb overload
Veggie verdict: ★★★★☆