Thursday, 11 February 2010

Crispy Duck review - some atmosphere, pity about the food though


Address: 7 Gerrard St, London W1D 5PH
Tel: 020 7434 1888
Nearest Tube station: Leicester Square

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £15 pp
Service charge: N/A
Taste: *
Service: **
Ambience: **
Suitable for: those who are looking for a relatively quiet
place to dine and don't mind the quality of the food
For some reason, I had not been to Chinatown since my last visit to Special Zone 1997 and I was determined to take a trip down after work to soak up the Chinese New Year atmosphere a bit.

Every year, there would be lines of lanterns criss-crossing Gerrard Street. I had the impression that the lanterns were recycled and they would all be taken down and stored in some warehouse only to resurface the next year. Well, apparently Cathay Pacific sponsored some (if not all) of the lanterns for this year. Although you couldn't really see it from the ground, but Cathay Pacific logo on each lantern was obvious enough from Crispy Duck's first floor where we had our dinner.

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As I have noted earlier, in my opinion, the undisputed king of roasted duck in Chinatown is still Four Seasons. The only reason why we ended up at Crispy Duck, a few doors down, was because there was a queue at Four Seasons. Also, I'm a fan of roast pork (the one with crispy skin) and the takeaway from Crispy Duck was decent enough. So I thought that if they could do a decent roast pork, surely their roast duck couldn't be too bad.

I was wrong.

There was a guy sitting by the Crispy Duck's door who beckoned passerbys into Crispy Duck. Obviously, if there was a need to do that, the restaurant couldn't be really that good, could it? I mean, you don't see Leong's Legend, Rasa Sayang or Four Seasons doing that, do you? That was his sole function - to get people in. The same guy ignored us when I gave him a smile on our way out.

Anyway, we were led upstairs as the ground floor was filled. The first thing that I noticed was that there were no ethnic Chinese among the customers on the entire ground floor, even two Chinese ladies seated on the first floor were looking quite miserable. It's like walking into a Italian restaurant with no Italian customers or walking into a sushi bar that Japanese avoid. That couldn't be good. But still we persisted.

In the spirit of comparing like for like with Four Seasons, we ordered a san-pin (combination of charsiew, roast pork and roast duck) and a beancurd dish.

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I looked at the san-pin (£9.50) with dismay when it arrived. It was presented in a manner that reminded me of the hawker stalls back home - the three roast varieties were strewn all over a circular plate. Not only that, the roast duck was dry and came with relatively large bones, roast pork was a bit limp and its skin could be crispier, and its charsiew was rather uninspiring.

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The fried beancurd with chilli and peppercorn ($4.50) had a curiously flaccid texture. I thought it could do with a bit more salt but Wife found it fine as it was. However, I must admit that the sliced red chilli and fried shallots went well with the otherwise bland beancurd.

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We were pleasantly surprised when we asked for the bill. Other than the sliced oranges, which any half decent Chinese restaurants in London would provide, Crispy Duck offered a bowl of red bean soup for each of us as well. I don't believe any other Chinese restaurant in Chinatown actually served that, not complimentary anyway.

With the Chinese New Year songs, which were understood probably only be the staff and us, blasting in the background, we were sitting by the window happily sipping our red bean soup while watching the Cathay Pacific sponsored lanterns swaying gently to the chilly breeze that was slowly building up outside. At that moment, it became clear to me why anyone would return to Crispy Duck despite its sub-par food.

Crispy Duck on Urbanspoon

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9 comments:

The London Foodie said...

I always order san-pin whenever I can, but have not tried Four Season's yet. Would you say that their version is the best in town?

Thanks for the heads up on "Crispy Duck", touting for customers is indeed a really bad sign for any restaurant.

Luiz @ The London Foodie

Mr Noodles said...

Not been here in a good few years and it seems to have gone downhill. If you want to try a superior three roasts, I recommend Phoenix Palace.

C K said...

@Luiz,
Four Seasons is the best one that I've tried so far. But don't expect too much in terms of service and ambience. As I mentioned, if possible, ask for a seat on the 1st floor.

@Mr Noodles,
Thanks for the recommendation! Have been to Phoenix Palace twice before but have not tried their three roasts.

I thought that the dimsum over there wasn't something to shout about. Have you tried ordering dimsum there before?

Mr Noodles said...

恭喜發財 ! I've posted about Phoenix Palace twice - once on dinner (my most recent post) and once on its dim sum in October. Whilst far from being a perfect restaurant, its my go-to place for Cantonese in London.

C K said...

@Mr Noodles,
A prosperous Chinese New Year to you too! Interestingly, Phoenix Palace was highly recommended by a Cantonese colleague of mine as well. Will add that to Pearl Liang on my to-go list.

Wild Boar said...

*ahem* Mayflower (http://www.pigpigscorner.com/2009/08/chinese-food-anyone-new-mayflower.html) will always give a free bowl of dessert, usually red bean or sai mai lo. Food is generally pretty good too.

C K said...

Hey Wild Boar,
Thanks for pointing that out. For some reason, I've never tried those restaurants along Shaftesbury Ave. Will go for the fried eels if I were to drop by. Thanks!

Eve said...

Have you tried the duck at Gold Mine in Bayswater? Its way better than Four Seasons in my opinion.

Great to stumble onto your blog. Am working in Angel:)

Kavey said...

Oh that plate of mixed roasts looks dismal!
Usually, it's all beautifully arranged in separate rows, beautifully crisp skin and moist meat. Not impressed with this version.