Al Duca


Tel: +44 (0)20 7838 3090
Address: 4-5 Duke Street, London SW1Y 6LA
Cuisine Type: Italian
nearest tube station Green Park (PICCADILLY, VICTORIA, JUBILEE)

Jermyn Street and the immediate surrounds are well-known for rather more than gents’ tailoring. There are several well-to-do restaurants and members-only bars in this area, many looking like they are trying not to draw attention to themselves and as a result managing to do so. Al Duca is set amongst these. Unless one is over six feet tall one will have some difficulty reading their posted menu on the wall outside, so perhaps this is their take on exclusivity. Happily, I am well over six feet, so there was no problem, but maybe one was to consider the restaurant’s ambience first and the menu second.

As it transpired, this would be an entirely inaccurate perception. As we surveyed the menu and the wine list, attention was drawn to the excellent and reasonably priced wine range. A bottle of verdicchio was too alluring to resist and proved most beneficial for the taste buds. I passed on the antipasti, a whole selection looking appealing, such as a smoked tuna with potato, spring onion and celery offering, or cured beef with rocket and lemon dressing. My companion’s uovo in camicia di parmigiano con pancetta e insalata was excellent: a perfectly soft-poached egg with parmesan, bacon and baby spinach. I opted instead for a starter size pasta dish – Boccoli al’orolana, a home made pasta with “garden vegetables” which married many basic but subtle tastes superbly. With an offer at the base of the menu selling two, three or four course meals for a set – and very good – price, we thought our luck was in. Even a four course meal would have cost just £25.00, we were informed.

Main courses with some refinements for the English palate followed. Filetto di manzoa, a pan fried fillet of beef with mashed potato, wild mushrooms and black truffle was to die for, with succulent meat and sliced truffle on top proving a treat for the senses. A char-grilled fillet of sea-bass with rocket and tomato salad looked equally tempting, but the restaurant adds a supplementary charge for certain dishes, and these two are specifically where the charges are levvied. Suddenly the three course meal without drinks for me was £27.00. And we did drink….

But for later, a second wine had to be chosen from a delightful selection, ranging in price from £5.50 to £7 per glass. Passito di Pantellerina was overpriced at £31 per half bottle – was this a mistake? Surely it shouldn’t be cheaper by the glass? Pere al vino e amaretto mantecato – poached pears in red and white wine with amaretto ice cream – tasted as good as it looked and a home made coconut sorbet with chocolate leaves was equally delicious. We were all set, having had a great night, but when the bill arrived at over £50 per head, the pleasure subsided.