You seek certain qualities in a dinner venue if:
a) you're off on a date or,
b) need a good catch-up with a friend
It can’t be too noisy, it needs to be sufficiently intimate without feeling like you're dining off each other’s knees, the staff must be attentive without you feeling like they want to sit on your knee, and the food (obviously) needs to be good.
This is where Rawduck wins on all accounts. On our arrival arrived we decided to grab a drink outside. The cocktail list is small (and the cocktails served in even smaller glasses) but they tasted all right enough for us not to abandon the place there and then.
Inside, Rawduck is wonderfully simple. A polished concrete bar separates the kitchen from the diners, and the staff sit you side by side with other patrons on a long bench down a wide table (like Hogwarts, just more fashionable).
I'm not usually a fan of shared benches, Wagamama style, but thanks to the Mediterranean table plants running down the middle of the wide polished Skandi wood or concrete (yes, more of that) tables masking you from your fellow eaters, you feel like you're in your own booth.
The Medditeranean tapas style menu is impressive and you should definitely pick a few dishes to share. They do “milk by the gram” (translation: cheese) and “pork by the gram” (saucisse, prosciutto and schiena). The ingredients are seasonal and fresh with an original assortment of ferments and pickles with wonderful sharp and sweet flavours. Ask the staff to recommend ones that compliment your dish.
Eventually we decided on the soft shell Sicilian red prawns with garlic & parsley, the slow roasted pork belly & spiced pickled royal gala apples and the aubergine cooked with lentils and Greek yoghurt.
I'm not normally a fan of aubergine due to its susceptibility to becoming slimy but this one wasn’t at all. Surrounded comfortably in its soft lentil bed with a cucumber yoghurt dressing sprinkled with paprika - it was the most skilfully cooked aubergine I've ever tasted (an accolade indeed).
The soft shell prawns in garlic were satisfyingly crunchy and the prawniest tasting prawns I've had without the sound of crashing waves in the background.
The slices of pork belly were served with a perfectly crisped crackling top and the pork fat melted in the mouth like a soft porky quaver. Mixed with the pickled apples, this pig died and went to pork heaven.
The dessert was my favourite. We ordered the lemon pie. It was a waste not want not’s dream. Topped with clotted cream, the chefs use an entire lemon, sliced, spread and bound inside firm, buttery shortcrust pastry to create a pie that's hard to write about without your mouth watering. Oh, there is goes now.
Don't be shy though, shovel those sticky lemony slices into your gob and give them a good chew, you'll be rewarded with a sweet, tangy party in your mouth.
Small plates from £2-£8 - Big plates from around £6-£17 - Desserts from £6. Tip: It's good to share here so you can try more things!
All the wines are carefully chosen so you won't find any “cheap plonk” on the menu. The wine list changes frequently so if you can’t decide on which one to order, ask your server what they recommend.
If you’ve been to Rawduck then let us know what you think! We’ll be heading there again next month for sure!
Address: 197 Richmond Road Hackney E8 3NJ
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8986 6534