The similarities between an English pub and a Chinese restaurant may be few and far between, though one commonality of late is their impressive ascents up the gourmet food chain. The humble public house has been given an upmarket injection via the gastropub; likewise, Chinese restaurants have undergone some serious luxe makeovers; in London, Belgravia’s A Wong and The Shard’s Hutong are but two über-haute examples.
Such parallel and until-now separate happenings have not escaped the eye of restaurateur Alan Yau, who on Monday unveils the latest feather in his cap, The Duck and Rice. Billed as a pub with a chop suey restaurant on the first floor, the two-storey Berwick Street space – the former Endurance pub – is a loving amalgam of these two traditions, as can be seen in the chic interiors where warm Victorian accents (cosy booths, wood-burning fireplaces) meet a pared-down Asian aesthetic. Decorated windows and panelling, for example, hint at the wood latticework that is signature to Yau’s former Soho haunts Hakkasan and Yauatcha, but here they are coolly geometric, modern and fresh.
The Duck and Rice first and foremost is a drinking establishment, something that won’t be lost on visitors; immediately greeting them are four golden copper tanks (second picture), the storehouses for the unpasteurised Pilsner Urquell (from £2.70) that arrives weekly from the Czech Republic. Other premium lagers and ales include Scottish Schiehallion from Harviestoun (from £2.80), Bath Ales’ Gem (from £2.20) and St Austell’s Tribute from Cornwall (from £2.40) – all of which will pair nicely with the range of “small chow” bar nibbles, such as salt and pepper broad beans (£4) and pork and Chinese leaves gyoza (£5.50). Asian specialities are further represented by Qinghu Rice Wine (10-year-old, £8.50 for 500ml) a Guava Collins cocktail (guava, coconut and lime, £5) and iced chrysanthemum honey tea (£2.50).
If the imbibing takes its cue from the time-honoured British watering-hole, then the food pays homage to Chinese tradition – or more precisely, “the Hong Kong-garden chop suey house”, says the gastropub, which hosts seating for 70 on the first floor. Reinterpreted classics such as Kung Pao chicken (£12), crispy shredded beef (£9) and sweet and sour pork (£9) will be familiar to Yau watchers, which sit on the menu alongside lobster Cantonese (£48), a premium China-grill Japanese beef selection (260g, £48) and the roasted Cantonese house duck (from £24). The opulently named Ten Heavenly Kings of Dim Sum – part of the weekend brunch menu – rounds out the offering.
“I hope with The Duck and Rice we will create a successful business,” says Yau, “while at the same time retaining the traditional characteristics of the British pub – humour and irony.”
Those interested in trying Alan Yau’s innovative cuisine further afield should try Jing Yaa Tang in Beijing…