Raw Duck

Although I don’t normally venture so far east, Raw Duck had been on my and my companion’s radar for a while.  Being a long, albeit rainy, July Friday, we decided to make the most of the evening and venture to London Fields to try it out. And boy was it a trek: I think I must have spent a good 40 minutes on the number 38 from Gray’s Inn Road. But by making the most of London’s bus routes – which I’m trying to do at the moment – you can really get to know this city, all its twists and turns (yes I’m thinking you, curvy street corner of Roseberry Avenue) and each neighbourhood’s distinctive vibe more. And Hackney definitely has one: it’s young, entrepreneurial and probably too cool for school – I certainly felt somewhat out of place!

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Raw Duck is the sister restaurant of Soho’s Duck Soup, which my companion had visited years ago when the idea of small plates, sharing dishes and seasonal, changing menus was a new thing. It’s just testament to how London’s restaurant scene has come such a long way: there seems to be a new opening, a soft launch and something popping up every week. But it’s also incredibly difficult to open up a successful eatery. Raw Duck’s earlier incarnation had to be demolished soon after opening, when the building subsided because of nearby construction work. It was then reopened as Raw Duck.

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By day, this place has a trendy café vibe with buttery breakfast buns from nearby Violet Cakes, sandwiches from E5 Bakehouse breads, and coffee made on a La Marzocco from Caravan. By night, it transforms into a wine bar with natural and biodynamic wines from all over France and Italy, featuring the up-and-coming orange wine which my companion loved, likening its taste to more of a woody red rather than a summery rose.

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The design of this place is as successful as its food (and wine). Once you’re inside – which itself is a challenge (FYI – the end door is the entrance) the décor is very stripped back and raw. Think long wooden sharing tables, a high concrete ceiling and neon lights, interspersed with blackboards listing specials all over the place. It all feels very communal – much like Forza Win – and we ended up having a good chat with our neighbours – US tourists who were staying in the area and had been pointed this way by their host. Raw Duck have also interwoven their USP into the fabric of their design: alongside the wine bottles displayed across the entire back wall is a bookshelf lined with jars of pickles which are made in-house. All of these ferments are supposed to aid your digestion, and are priced at £2 a dish. Fairy reasonable for gut health?

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The emphasis of the foods here is on sharing and the concept is clearly important to them here. When we asked for another menu our waiter insisted that, like the food, we share the menu. Given that the sharing ethos is integral to the spirit of this place, we shared the salad of Shaved courgette, chickpeas, cumin, charred flat bread & tahini yoghurt (£14).  Though slightly pricey, it went down a storm. The courgettes had been beautifully peeled, the dish was wonderfully creamy with the tahini and zesty lemony drizzle, and the Middle Eastern spicing was everything I’d hoped for: fragrant, deep and singing with flavours, I’d love to recreate this salad in my kitchen. The charred naan-like strips also provided perfect vehicles for scooping up the generous chickpeas and yogurt.

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We also got a Plate each. I went for the Roasted Romanesco, salted cheese & za’tar (£9) which was beautifully put together. The roasted cauliflower had a real bite to it and paired very well with this fantastically crumbly, sheep’s cheese. Quality produce, simply assembled.

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My main complaint was the long wait for our food and its slightly haphazard arrival: my companion’s plate arrived long before mine and our sharing dish.

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All in all, Raw Duck is a restaurant built from commitment and curiosity – and it even requires curiosity to be willing to trek to this corner of London to sample its produce. But it’s worth it. With bookable tables (albeit shared with strangers) and an all-day opening, it’s a user-friendly entry point for anyone intrigued about the new wave of London restaurants. And it’s especially good value on a weekday lunch where you can nab a main and a glass of wine for £10. Check it out!

Raw Duck, 197 Richmond Rd, London E8 3NJ

Website: www.rawduckhackney.co.uk/

Rating: ****

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