Eating Out: The Pickled Duck Cafe in Derry
THE Pickled Duck Cafe is Derry’s latest restaur – Oh, hang on, that’s the way I started the last review. The city’s restaurants are breeding like rabbits. I can’t keep up.
Okay, let’s try again.
When Austin’s department store closed, among the collateral damage was the mezzanine cafe, the Green Octopus. It was a smashing little place which established a keen following in a short space of time.
Instead of giving up, Kiera Duddy, who ran the Octopus, bided her time, kept her eyes peeled for new opportunities, and, when she heard the Soul Cafe was closing, made her move for the premises on Shipquay Place.
She moved in her team ('We are the Duddymen' – there are women too, but the joke doesn’t work if you include them), chose another daft name and set up her new cafe a couple of weeks back.
The immediate benefit is that the cafe is now at the bottom of Shipquay Street, rather than the summit, so you can establish basecamp and throw out your crampons, oxygen tanks and Kendal Mint Cake.
The view now is of the Guildhall and the city walls, rather than the escalator and the shop floor; and they no longer have to adhere to the store’s opening times, so they can stay open later whenever there’s an event in Guildhall Square.
We’d all liked the Octopus, and were keen to see what the new place was like, so the three of us popped in for lunch.
It was a slow Monday in town, but the cafe wasn’t far from full, and there was a relish and chatter in the place.
Some things on the menu were familiar, but there were a few new dishes too. We went for a couple of old friends and a couple of the new kids.
The chicken and leek pie was gorgeous. Have you ever ordered a pie and played Hunt the Meat? Well, you don’t have to do that here. It was full of big chunks of moist, tender chicken, wrapped in an oozy, creamy sauce.
The filling comes in a cube of deliciously crisp and then soft pastry, the lid of which was pushed aside by the chicken and sauce flowing out like lovely lava. The mash was soft and smooth.
My brother chose the burger. The brioche barmcake was sweet and soft, and the meaty patty full of rich flavour. The salty cheese added a dimension of flavour, and was cleverly dotted with bacon lardons. And the chips! Oh my goodness, these were fantastic – beautifully crisp and then deep and soft and fluffy inside.
I chose the Derry Stew. It was made with meatballs – the Derry custom, I was assured – which lacked a little flavour, for me, and the gravy was perhaps a touch thin for my liking.
The carrots and potatoes were fresh and delicious, however, and the whole dish was warming and homely.
Purely in the interests of research – certainly not out of sheer greed, you understand – we ordered the sausage roll, too. We shared it between the three of us, which is to say, I ate it and allowed the other two to watch me.
The flaky pastry was as good as the chicken pie’s, and the meaty, herby filling was as thick as the handle of a cricket bat. Like the stew, it came with something called 'ding'. That’s brown sauce to anyone outside Derry, apparently.
There is simply no need for anyone looking for a meal out in Derry to have bad grub. And nor is there any need to eat at a chain restaurant or cafe. The Pickled Duck is the latest off the conveyor belt of independents serving quality dishes.
The tone may vary, from fine dining to, as is the case here, friendly and comforting, but the high levels of care, skill, and pride don’t.
The Pickled Duck still has echoes of the Green Octopus in its menu and the Soul Cafe in its decor, but I’d say it’s already found its feet and is ready to step out and establish its own fresh identity.
It’ll be a treat – a real, tasty one – to watch it evolve.
Homemade burger, brioche barmcake, bacon, smoked Gubbeen cheese, red chard, house relish, salad, chips – £7.50
Creamy chicken and leek pie, puff pastry case, buttery mash – £7.00
Derry stew, wheaten bread, home-made brown ding – £5.50
Home-made sausage roll – £2.50
The Pickled Duck, Shipquay Place, Derry. Tel: 028 7126 6110