Nick Buglione finally makes it to Duck Duck Goose @ Pop Brixton
Howzat? Oli Brown’s kitchen is surely a culinary Tardis.
Leaving aside the logistics of running a upscale Cantonese canteen in a tin can, it’s a minor miracle he can fit his staff into a matchbox-sized kitchen, jostling for space alongside duck and goose hanging in their funky air-dryer. A far cry from expansive service at Café Anglais from whence Brown came, via Hong Kong.
As we found out in a previous Bugle, inspired by trad Hong Kong cafés and roast meat shops, Brown has dabbled in a spot of reinvention, adding upgrade flourishes to classic Cantonese cuisine. And cocktails – we had gin, ginger and lime tonics. It’s a warming (occasionally smoky) joint, decked in orange hues, funky formica and kitsch lighting. Cutely utilitarian and about as stylish as a sea container is going to get.
Our waiter, part barman in The Shining, part droll raconteur, supplies the first of a series of substantial “tasting plates”, from a concise menu divided into raw, fried, wok, steamed and BBQ. Raw scallops (think ceviche) with choi sum, pickled ginger and sesame was precise, elegant and citrus-refreshing, generous on the scallop.
Unlike the depressingly functional prawn toast dispensed by your average Chinese takeaway, Brown’s Prawn Toast Revisited is a visit worth making. An elegant, indulgent mini-mountain of mashed prawn, bread and sesame, deep fried and garnished with bonito flakes (katsuobushi) – dried, fermented and smoked tuna. My non-existent heart surgeon may not approve but he, or she, doesn’t exist. I’m not entirely sure I can ever go back to the takeaway.
Duck Duck Goose only serves its goose on Saturday night so we chose everything else – char sui pork, roast pork belly with five spice and the roast duck. Hashtag meatfest. Served with dainty pickles, plum sauce and mustard. Not much need for reinvention here – why mess with classic? The char sui was good, revealing the time it has spent basking in marinade and the duck was excellent. Crispy five-spice infused skin over nicely meaty breast.
I like a bit of fat but some might want the pork belly rendered down a little more? That would include Mrs B. It’s also hard to get a plate of meat looking quite as sexy as the prawn toast. Pickles offer a tangy accompaniment.
They also do shoulder of lamb, mussels with black beans and Shaoxing wine and whole bream with ginger and spring onion. All coming out of a microscopic kitchen. If you make it to dessert, there are palate cleansing sorbets or, wait for it, cha chaan teng (tea restaurant) peanut butter toast with caramel and soy ice cream. That will have to be for another day/life.
This isn’t the cheapest date at Pop. The (substantial) sharing meat platter nudges just past £30 but you can pick and mix more conservatively than we did. The menu’s high-wire balance of tradition and innovation is pretty much right up this diner’s street and you get what you pay for. Both in life and at Duck Duck Goose.
Pop Brixton, SW9 8PQ | 020 7346 8521 | duckduckgooselondon.com | @ddglondon