Pop Brixton ,49 Station Road, Brixton, London SW9 8PQ www.duckduckgooselondon.com
Excellent Cantonese cooking fired up in a shipping container in the busiest part of the new Brixton.
Pop Brixton is what helps makes Brixtonians less ticked off that they can’t afford to live in Shoreditch.
This Mad Max fortress of sea containers is home to lots of dead-cool restaurants, and a few smart shops, and is an oasis of middle class millennialism in the maelstrom that is still Brixton.
Come out of Brixton tube station and you’re immediately assaulted by noise and the smell of incense. I do it every day so I’m immune to it, but visitors can be seen recoiling in shock from the mix of mad preachers, mad people and people madly playing drums.
Pop is thankfully just a few minutes’ walk away, behind the rail arches. Its lights glow temptingly in the dusk, attracting the young and the hip and the relatively well-off locals like moths to a flame.
Expect to get your bag searched at the entrance – again, this is Brixton don’t forget – but once inside the compound the main challenge is trying to find Duck Duck Goose. There is a wall map to consult, if you can get to see it past the press of bodies, but even so it’s easy to get a bit lost in the narrow maze of’alleyways’ that throng with people.
On a warm night like tonight, and even on cold nights, people eat outside the restaurants. It always reminds me of Ho Chi Minh City or Hong Kong, the latter appropriate because Duck Duck Goose is all about Cantonese cooking. It’s a restaurant inspired by chef Oli Brown’s experience in Hong Kong’s cafÃƒÂ©s and roast meat shops
We find it finally, after two aborted passes and head inside the container to avoid the crowds. It’s cute, cheerfully compact, and with a visible kitchen that’s barely big enough for the chefs inside it.
In my experience though any kitchen where chef can reach everything without moving always turns out better food. Pegboards line the walls to hang plastic fruit and the feel is easy wipe Formica, it must get messy.
The star dishes on the concise menu are roast duck, char siu pork, pork belly and goose, the restaurant actually has its own custom-built air dryer and duck oven to do it perfectly. But first, remember prawn toast?
Once a dubious dish at best in many a Chinese restaurant, here it’s reborn as juicy genuine prawn encased in sesame seed coated bread, dunked in the deep fryer and served slathered in kewpie mayo and a touch of millennial ketchup. It’s served topped off with a jaunty bonnet of bonito tuna flakes, bitter frisÃƒÂ©e lettuce and pickled kohlrabi.
It’s messy and gorgeous and we share just the one, but we could easily have eaten two or three.
But you have to leave room for the duck and pork – pork belly comes perfectly braised with a nicely crunchy skin, but not so crunchy it gives my poor old teeth any worries, the pork meltingly good.
Even better is the goose part, this is just fat city and so for us fat lovers it’s pure heaven. And the flavours are just so dreamily good. We pour the delicious plate juices over our plain rice, and add a stir fry of seasonal greens.
This is good and chili hot, but the yellow beans are rather like those coming off my allotment right now, rather past their best, and the chard is a bit tough, the stalks rather stringy. You have to pick the best bits out.
To contrast the fat and heady pork and goose, we have a whole seabass simply cooked with soy, ginger and onion. The fish is so fresh this is all it needs to bring out its own excellent flavour without swamping it. The fish being whole gets extra taste from the bone, but we appreciated the waiter’s help in filleting it at the table.
Back to the fryer for pud, Ha Chaan teng French toast, which resembles a fried peanut-butter sandwich, is served with kulfi, peanut and soy ice cream. The bread is a bit burnt and so all I really get to taste is carbon on that side of things, but the ice cream was ample compensation.
As we leave people are queuing to get a table, and I don’t blame them. This kind of savagely tasty food is not easy to come by, but when it appears everyone should go get a taste.