Around the corner to Gascony

Monsieur le Duck has arrived in Clerkenwell fresh from success in their temporary home in Spitalfields.  On the left hand side of Clerkenwell Road heading west, just a little past the high walls of the back of the Charterhouse, the orange awning shouts out a warm welcome – serving fresh breakfast pastries from 8.30, brunch from 10, smaller plates from the bar and the full menu from 12 noon.

With trademark duck and other ingredients coming all the way from farms in Gascony in the south-west of France, Monsieur le Duck gives us authentic quality.  There are also options for vegetarians and a great choice of plate sizes for all levels of hunger.

The service stands out here and the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the owners’ vision; no fuss, authoritative quality and the essence of provincial Gascony.

“We are no frills and authentic and reasonably-priced. No balsamic reductions, no pea shoots, no nasturtiums, no smears of emulsion across the plate, just duck and frites, with salad, French bread, puddings, sides of fresh vegetables, Gascon wine and, if you so wish, a slug of France’s oldest brandy, Armagnac” on the website says it all.

After 6 months in Spitalfields, the restaurant opened at the beginning of May and the venue seats about 80.

The French-inspired cocktail menu has something for everyone, but our hostess offered (without being asked) if they could make us something to order if we fancied some other combination.  We chose a classic Pousse Rapière made with orange and armagnac liqueur and a Martini Rosé with rhubarb and ginger gin, Lillet Rosé, vermouth and grapefruit liqueur.  The Martini blew our socks off so I bagged the gentler and refreshing Pousse Rapière.

Cocktails are all priced around £10

The large tiled central bar is a hub in the main restaurant and has seating to accommodate single diners or for quick snacks or drinks.  The large windows facing the street can open onto the pavement terrace outside when the weather is warm enough.  Rustic tables and benches – with modern but industrial tweaks in the décor and seating – suit the comfortable, easy-going atmosphere and the ambience wakes up French holiday memories long dormant.

Interior from the intimate 2 seater window table looking back into the main restaurant area

To start, I chose the bread and duck fat butter.  Even though the idea of fat butter didn’t seem appetising, I’d heard great things about duck fat butter being a much healthier option so I had to try it out.  Our hostess explains that the mixing process is down to a fine art and the result is a creamy white saltiness which is very satiating.  I love butter and when I tuck in I tend to have more butter than bread!  The duck fat butter is more salty and you just don’t need as much to give you the same kick.

We also shared a bowl of mussels which were prepared well with a soupy white wine, shallot and cream broth and whose bowl begged to be wiped clean with the last of the bread.  The mussels are a dish you can have as a starter or main.

Bread & Duck Fat Butter £3 and Moules Marinières (starter portion) £7

 

Starters include:

Bread & Duck Fat Butter £3

Baked Camembert, Thyme & Red Onion Jam (For 2) £12

Mixed Leaf Salad £3

3 FOR £15 options include:

Confit duck wing on celeriac remoulade £6

Duck rillettes with bread, cornichons, jam £6

Confit duck croquettes with chilli or truffle mayo £6

Spinach and goat’s cheese croquettes £6

Moules Marinières £7

 

A couple of glasses of wine were picked from a wine list sourced from vineyards across south-west France to suit the dishes.  We had a French Malbec from the Languedoc and a refreshing French Sauvignon Blanc – both available by the glass and very acceptable.

You can pick and choose from the menus for a main course, but Monsieur le Duck have taken the guesswork out of the decision with their ‘Le Grand Jeu’ sharing platter for two people combining their statement duck 3 ways.  ‘The Great Game’ arrives on a large wooden chopping board brimming over with a burger (halved), a confit leg, and sliced duck breast both grilled and pan roasted.  You’ll have to decide your own favourite and they all have their pluses.  The duck flesh of the confit moulard leg, finished in the pan with garlic & thyme) is meltingly tender with a rich, slightly salty but mellow flavour.  The two breast options were also delicious and it was interesting to experience the textural differences between them and the leg.  If I selected this dish again, I’d order the red wine jus to accompany the breasts, to add even more flavour.

Le Grand Jeu – confit duck leg, chargrilled breast, pan roasted breast, duck burger £34

As someone who doesn’t ‘do duck’ that often, the winner for me was the 100% Barbary duck leg mince burger with prune mayo and baby gem.  The burger is an easy-going option to appreciate the lush ‘something different and new’ flavour which combines so well with the toasted brioche bun.

Duck Burger £12 can be enjoyed separately or as part of the ‘Le Grand Jeu’ sharing dish

 

Mains include:

Confit De Canard £12

Magret De Canard £12

Duck Burger £12

Vegetable tarte Provençale – aubergine, mushroom, courgette, peppers, tomato and goat’s cheese on puff £12

Goat’s cheese, prune and walnut salad (add duck +£4) £8

Moules Marinières £12

For 2 to share:

Le Grand Jeu – confit duck leg, chargrilled breast, pan roasted breast, duck burger £34

Whole Magret De Canard – Magret duck breast, pan roasted or grilled (+red wine jus +£1) £28

Duck Wellington – Magret duck breast / parma ham, spinach, mushroom baked in puff pastry (requires 48 hours notice) £36

 

For dessert, although I was tempted by the recommended crème brûlée to finish, the rich flavours of the duck demanded something with a tart bite to it and I can’t gush enough about the tarte aux pommes – not too sweet or too much pastry and plenty of fruity filling.  I’d return for the burger and tarte alone!  I’ve promised myself I’ll go back for the crème brûlée, but once through the door, I might not be able to resist a second tarte.  It’s taking all my strength not to head out of the door now.

Tarte aux pommes £6

My partner opted for the chocolate mousse; the rich and creamy pot-full is a perfect ending if you are craving dark chocolate.

Dark Chocolate Mousse £6

 

Desserts include:

Crème Brûlée £6

Tarte aux pommes £6

Fromages à Trois (Chèvre, Bon Grivois, Comté) £8

Dark Chocolate Mousse £6

 

Monsieur le Duck stands out with their focus, quality and friendliness; even before we introduced ourselves and they were made aware that we were doing a review, the staff were the most welcoming of any I have come across in years: explaining and recommending the dishes and checking for allergies.  The prices suit every wallet because the dish sizes are so flexible.  We know that we are spoilt for choice with restaurants in our area but this one is definitely worth the short stroll, duckie!

 

Monsieur le Duck

27 Clerkenwell Road, EC1M 5RN

Open 7 days a week, Mon-Fri: 8.30am – 11pm / Sat: 10am – 11pm / Sun: 11am – 5pm.

info@leduck.co.uk / 020 3970 0490

 

This is a cashless restaurant, but they accept all major cards and contactless methods of payment.

Monsieur le Duck has a 10% discount for locals (bring proof of address and quote ‘Summer Ducky’ when booking or asking for the bill).