New Restaurant Opening: Duck Soup – Exclusive Interview with Head Chef Julian Biggs

This article is written by our guest author Zeren Wilson.

“Waiter, waiter, there’s a Duck in my Soup”, may call to mind the oldest restaurant joke in eternity, but Soho is about to receive an exciting new opening with the memorable name Duck Soup. A reference to the Marx Brothers’ 1933 film of the same name (The Groucho Club is a couple of doors away on Dean St), an experienced team is at the helm. Julian Biggs, ex-Head Chef at Hix in Lyme Regis, is heading up the kitchen. The team in the new venture include Clare Lattin, Fiona St George, and Rory McCoy.

A daily changing menu and a small, accessible wine list focusing on natural and bio-dynamic wines is at the heart of the Duck Soup ethos, inspired by the team’s love of great restaurants from around the world. First murmurs of menu details include deep fried artichokes with saffron mayonnaise, grilled octopus with green sauce, and a Nostrale soup with foie gras.

We caught up with Julian Biggs and chatted to him about Duck Soup and his influences:

How did the team come up with the concept for Duck Soup, and how did the name evolve?

I think it came down to a shared idea of the sorts of places we like to visit time and time again – those that offer a more European, easy approach to wine and food, down-to-earthness combined with great food. We’ve all found our ideal places and I suppose its an amalgamation of these.  Clare used to talk about a place in Denmark she’d been to that was really ordinary with simple seasonal dishes and a small accessible wine list. My friend Nick Strangeway led me to Georges Five in Lyon. It was just him, his wine and his customers and great plates of simple food. I loved the fact that he had a huge tin of white tuna sitting open on the bar and he’d just dig in and pull out huge chunks to make a Vitello Tonnato. Then a friend of Clare took her to Le Verre Vole in Paris which I then went to, and it is one of the happiest restaurants I’ve ever been to with the most amazing natural wines.

Which cuisine or country outside of the UK excites you most?

The Middle East intrigues me the most with their light approach to seasoning with citrus and herbs, but it’s fresh ingredients from shores closer to home that really inspire

Why do you think it’s only the last few years that has seen rapid improvements in London restaurant quality and options?

I don’t think it’s only the last few years that we’ve seen improvements in quality. London has been high in quality for some time, but our options have certainly grown. Going out to eat is no longer reserved for the affluent , it has become more of an every day way of life. The recession helped spur that on, but it was happening before that – there is always naturally a backlash to styles.  Antony Demetre opened Arbutus with the premise of offering quality food at affordable prices and he did the same, pay for what you drink only rather than having to buy a bottle.  We’re seeing lots of young people do some really interesting things – the recession opened up lots of opportunities and there are many more to be explored.

Favourite restaurants and bars in London?

Terroirs, Brawn, Caravan, Morito, Moro, Hix Oyster & Chop House, 40 Maltby Street, run by Raef Hodgson is my new favourite.

Would the team have considered opening outside of London?

No we live in London – London is missing more of these places

What do you do to chill out after service and on days off? 

Cycle and drink wine – not together

Would you have become anything else other than a chef, if you’d turned a different corner?

I don’t think so – I started young so there were no other corners. I did some food photography and styling for a while but I am better with ingredients in my hand.

Any part of the UK you are particularly fond of, outside of London?

Norfolk where my parents live. I also love Dorset as I spent a lot of time in Lyme when I was with Mark Hix

When did you first start to appreciate wine, favourite regions, styles? How important is wine to your own dining enjoyment?

I am most familiar with French wines and getting to know Italian more of late, I’m not so into heavier wines or new world. In the last few years I have really got to enjoy the individual characteristics of biodynamic and natural wines.

 

Duck Soup will be at 41 Dean Street, W1, and will open on Monday, 26th of September! You can follow them on Twitter @ducksoupsoho.

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