The Specialist is a notoriously awful Sylvester Stallone vehicle from the 1990s, sandwiched in that long, long period between Sly’s Rocky n’ Rambo pomp and his recent Creed-fuelled rebirth.
The film is an anomaly in that, by and large, specialists are to be welcomed. A specialist in plumbing will fix your pipes. A specialist in tailoring will craft you a beautiful suit. A specialist in law may prevent you from spending Christmas in a Mexican jail after that stag party gets a little out of hand.
Most welcome of all specialists, however, are the specialists in food: the restaurateurs who cry, ‘Jack of all trades be damned – I’m going to do one thing, and do it damned well!'
Think Yen and its noodles; Tonkotsu and its ramen; Padella and its pasta – and Monsieur Le Duck and its fried chicken. Only joking. It serves duck. Obviously.
Monsieur Le Duck is a little corner of Gascony relocated to the City; indeed the website describes “a portal to the French heartland of relaxed eating and drinking.” This isn’t mere lip-service: with its red-and-white checked curtains, wood-heavy interior and copious wine racks, the restaurant does a passable imitation of a large Gascon farmhouse. Tarry long enough in here and you’ll be scrabbling for the passport on the way out.
The Le Grand Jeu offers the duck burger, grilled and roasted breast, and the confit duck leg
And make no mistake, Monsieur Le Duck is a lovely place to tarry – or linger, idle, while away the evening. Leave aside the interior: it serves its wine in water glasses, and nothing creates an atmosphere of European loucheness like pouring red wine from a carafe into your water glass. La Belle Vie indeed.
What to order, what to order? I’d suggest the duck – all of the duck! The Le Grand Jeu offers the duck burger, 100g each of grilled and roasted breast, and the confit duck leg, plus two sides – get the fries avec truffle oil, and a vegetable of your choice. All this for £42, really £21 as it’s intended for two. (And if you’re eating all that solo, you might want a word with your doctor.)
The burger is both very good – its prune d'agen mayo did stuff to me – yet also the least exciting of all the duck on offer. (So Donald or Daffy, depending if you prefer classic Disney or Looney Tunes. I’ve been Team Bugs since day one.) Be warned if you’re here on a date: this is not food that yields easily to non-messy consumption.
The leg comes apart on the bone, revealing Midas-rich meat within marbled halls of fat
Both versions of breast are delicious, although I admit my palette lacks the sophistication to discern a huge difference between grilled and roasted; or perhaps I lack the eloquence to describe any difference I do discern. Anyway, you get the triple threat of meat, fat, oh-so-crispy skin in a number of thick and juicy slices. Who really cares which is which?
Yet it’s the confit duck leg that will make you go full drool. The leg comes apart on the bone from the merest pressure from your knife, revealing Midas-rich meat within marbled halls of fat – I’m getting all Homer Simpson just thinking about it. Eat it every night and you’d soon be as fat as Homer Simpson; as an occasional delicacy you couldn’t ask for more.
The service, incidentally, is excellent. Sometimes you suspect the staff have been instructed to turn on the charm – “smile for the journalist!” – but it turned out our waitress Natalie didn’t actually know we were here to review, and therefore should be just as friendly to you as she was to us. The rude French waiter is a hoary old stereotype; nonetheless, having painstakingly recreated so much of the bistro experience, I’m glad they drew the line at this one.
Initially a pop-up Monsieur Le Duck has found a permanent home in Clerkenwell – get down there as soon as you can. A special evening awaits.
For more info, see Le Duck