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Best Crispy Aromatic Duck in London?

Hello Hounds =)

My fiance and I will be honeymooning in the UK (he's a Brit) in December. He is a terribly huge fan of Crispy Aromatic Duck and since its basically impossible to find in the US, we would really like to have the best we can find while in London.

Does anyone have an advice or suggestions of places to try?

My search on google only returned with a place called Mr Kongs in Soho... does anyone have any experience from this place?

Thanks for any help! :)

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  1. if you're looking for the 'very best' perhaps somewhere like China Tang's at the Dorchester?

    otherwise, this place is not as expensive but very good for duck, in paddington.

    1. I live in the US now but was raised in London. My regular spot for getting (take out) and eating roast duck is Canton in London's Chinatown. It's just off the main drag (between the gates) at the end near the fire station. It's far from a fancy place and most customers are Asians. There's a small dining area on the ground floor and more dining space upstairs. It's cheap and cheerful and hits the spot.

      1. Hi, Littlelea is asking about Crispy Aromatic Duck, not Cantonese Roast Duck. The former can be found on the menu of most, if not all, Chinese restaurants in the UK but is relatively unheard of in the USA. It actually originated in London. It's a dish that's difficult to mess up and most restaurants in London will do it well. However, the vast majority of places use factory-made pancakes and hand-made ones make all the difference. For this reason, I recommend Taiwan Village near Gloucester Road tube. It would be a waste of time to go to China Tang for Crispy Aromatic Duck, by the way, but their Peking Duck is worth trying.

        Oh, and Mr Kong's is currently closed due to a kitchen fire. I'm so hoping that they'll reopen as it was one of my favourite restaurants for Cantonese standards.

        Coincidentally, I bought some roast duck and pork from Canton for dinner tonight. It wasn't as good as in previous visits. I hope this is just a blip. I've already had to cope with the loss of Kowloon Bakery this year - I used to go there for doufu fa (tofu pudding) but now all they do is bain marie buffet. A sad loss.

        6 Replies
        1. re: Ian

          Thank you Ian! Very helpful! I think we will definitely be trying Taiwan Village! The online menu is impressive!

          1. re: Ian

            Agree on Taiwan Village, but if it's the one I'm thinking of, it's not very close to Gloucester Road tube ... it's on Lillie Road so probably closest to the West Brompton and West Kensington tubes (and not far from The Atlas, another of my faves in the area)

            If you wanted to walk there from Gloucester Road, it would take about 20+ minutes; it's probably easier to go 2 more stops west on the District Line.

            1. re: Bradbury

              Good catch, Bradbury. I meant West Brompton tube. I remembered Gloucester Road as a friend actually went there by accident last time I went to TW! Thanks again.

            2. re: Ian

              fyi, the closest tube to taiwan village is west brompton; its a long walk - perhaps 1.5 miles - from gloucester road.

              1. re: Ian

                Ian you sound like the expert to ask! Where is the best 'proper' Peking Duck in London (i.e. not the crispy style or cantonese style, but classic sliced skin type)? I know China Tang serves it, but looking for somewhere else just as good and authentic. Any suggestions?

                1. re: marcus_london

                  That may be hard to find. Even places like Min Jiang which have been highly rated for their Peking Duck, have been reported to use hoisin sauce rather than tian2 mian4 jiang4, the complex sweet fermented wheat sauce in the classic version of the dish. Would be grateful to hear of any place that does it properly or if some of these places can switch to the proper sauce on request.

                  In addition, from what I've read on chowhound and elsewhere, some of the 'proper' Peking duck renditions can be rather elaborate, encompassing a whole banquet where each course is centred around a different part of the duck. Yet to hear of something like that here.

              2. Well, I probably shouldn't wade in here because I'm breaking a cardinal chow rule - I haven't actually tried the Crispy Aromatic Duck anywhere. So I've got no expertise. And I'm a big fan of the 'hole in the wall ethnic eatery' discovery. But here goes anyway.

                There's a restaurant in Soho called Yauatcha - swank and slick, Michelin-starred. It gets some negative reviews from people - I don't think for the quality of the food, more for the service/time limits on tables. It is mainly a dim sum place. There's some innovation going on (e.g. the tea-smoked duck I enjoyed was served with thinly sliced kumquat), but not so much innovation that it is annoying or gets in the way of the flavours. In three visits it has been consistently yummy (although I think I would go back there for the chili paste alone).

                They do have Crispy Aromatic Duck on the menu and appear to take All Things Duck very seriously (I recently watched a server gently dissect a duck for what had to have been 20 minutes). It's probably not as "authentic" an experience as the other suggested places, but it would certainly be a London experience, and I'd be surprised if the duck was disappointing.

                Well there you go. For what it's worth.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Janna in London

                  Yauatcha would be a waste of money for crispy aromatic duck.

                  1. re: Janna in London

                    I was going to write something totally terrible about why it took him/her 20 minutes to dissect that duck, but I'm being good! I think a person could do better than Yauatcha--this begs the question as to where, and to that, I have no answer. Why I'm even posting is beyond me. Blame the pinot!

                  2. As Heston Blumenthal discovered when he attempted to recreate this dish in his kitchen/lab 98% of the ducks consumed in the UK come from one farm in Ireland.

                    Personally, I don't find a huge difference in any of the places mentioned in this thread although I admit to not having tried China Tang.

                    1. Min Jiang? I've never eaten here due to it being ahem slightly (!) out of my price range so not qualified to comment but it certainly sounds like they specialise in duck

                      1. Royal China does good crispy aromatic duck. In fact, it introduced this typical British-Chinese dish to Singapore a few years ago at its Raffles Hotel outlet.

                        1. Never eaten either Peking Duck or Aromatic Crispy Duck there, but Phoenix Palace is a really really good Chinese restaurant near Baker Street. And good value. I'm fussy about Chinese food, especially having lived there for a year, but I've always really enjoyed any meal I've had there. I'd imagine they'd do good duck. Failing that, you'd probably get pretty good aromatic duck all around Chinatown.

                          I wouldn't bother with the Dorchester though. Not eaten there, though I'm sure it'd be fantastic. But those kind of prices for food like that seem a bit extreme to me.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chief1284

                            Re: The Dorchester and China Tang; wouldn't high prices correlate with really good Cantonese food? It is a cuisine based on ingredient quality, freshness and light cooking techniques. So it stands to reason the best will cost a lot. It was true in HK so I would expect it to be true in London.

                            Re: Crispy Aromatic Duck, as Ian said it is a British invention. It isn't Peking Duck. It is an easy to cook dish that involves the "expert" use of a deep fat fryer. Thus the best bet is a good high street Chinese restaurant not a serious place that serves top notch Peking duck. However, as Yauatcha is pretty good (and fashionable) and as Janna says has Aromatic duck (however is the menu changing soon? maybe a relaunch?)

                            Limster: I agree re the authentic Peking duck being a multiple course affair, usually at least 3 courses, with the skin/breast served in pancakes, a soup and then another dish with the rest of the meat. Most of the places I have ordered in in China only serve a whole duck, hence the need for multiple courses, and thus it is also a dish to be shared.

                            1. re: PhilD

                              Agreed on aromatic duck. Which is kinda why I was just recommending an Chinese restaurant for it.

                              As for the Dorchester and China Tang. To be fair, you may be right. I shouldn't really impose my budget restraints on other people. I think because it is possible to get good Chinese food for not huge prices I feel loathe to pay through the roof. Also I'd fear paying massive prices for over-anglicised stuff. Still, if I was a bit more solvent I probably would head to those places and see.

                              Also re: below -> Beijing kaoya at Min Jiang I would consider. I LOVE traditional roast duck and haven't seen it once done properly in England.

                            2. re: chief1284

                              Haven't tried Min Jiang but China Tang's is a very, very good Peking duck. Get the three-course option - duck with pancakes carved table-side (served, mind you, with hoisin sauce, not the 'real' stuff) etc., then a soup made from the duck, then a stir-fry with bean sprouts, for something like £48. The duck itself is up there with the best I've had in Beijing. It's enough for two people; as long as you just drink tea, you'll be able to get out of there for about £60 per couple including service, which I think is reasonable value given what you're getting. (The first time I went my other half and I each had a glass of champagne - at £16 a glass that was a mistake we won't repeat!) And the people-watching can be great fun too.

                              The rest of the menu is standard, uninspired Cantonese fare, and very expensive. I don't touch it.

                            3. It is surprising that crispy aromatic duck doesn't seem to have made it over to the US. Mushu pork doesn't really substitute.

                              CAD is also in our top 3 favourite foods, and from gratuitously extensive testing we now swear by the China Garden Restaurant, 5-6 New College Parade,Finchley Road, London, NW3 5EP.

                              Warning: the Finchley Road is VERY UNGLAMOROUS. Not really a honeymoon destination. But the excellent WonTon soup and duck should allow you to rise above the dirty urban grit. We also think their sizzling chicken with black bean sauce and sizzling prawns with spicy sauce are pretty much the UK's best (another advantage over the US: portions are small enough that 2 people can order a more interesting combination of dishes).

                              Warning 2: as honeymooners, you probably won't be staying anywhere near Swiss Cottage, for the aforementioned reason. Jubilee line is closed all weekend for foreseeable future, so you might want to schedule this meal for mid-week.

                              End of warnings. Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials!

                              1. Thank you all for the fantastic responses. :)

                                I don't really remember where we ended up eating now, but I think we just wound up wandering into one of the many joints in China-town... one that looked to have a good crowd inside.

                                I am aware that crispy aromatic duck is NOT Peking duck.... I live in the US and had never even heard of it until meeting my (now) husband who is a Brit. I should mention I had a room-mate for about 3 years who was born and raised in Hong Kong, so I'm pretty familiar with traditional Chinese fare. ;-) As far as crispy aromatic duck goes, husband was a fan... and once I tried it, I became a fan too.

                                Anyways... we hit the 2 year mark last month! I will still refer to this thread for our visits to London (have been 3 now since the original post).

                                Thanks all!