The man behind Monsieur Le Duck is at his happiest when he’s soaring through the air on a circus trapeze!
For a few hours each week Richard Humphreys leaves his Clerkenwell Restaurant and heads to Flying Fantastic to practice aerial circus skills, hoop and trapeze. He said: “I’m usually hanging on for dear life! It’s great fun, great for fitness, a real adrenaline rush and a great escape from the stress of running a restaurant.”
The 35-year-old set up Monsieur Le Duck with two fellow investors in November, bringing food from the French region of Gascony to the heart of London. He’d spent all his holidays there as a child and loved the food and the way of life.
After over a decade working in metal trading, Richard was fed up with office work, he saved up, quit his job and took a few holidays.
He said: “When I started getting bored, I met a couple of people (Paul Luke and David Humphreys) who were interested in opening a restaurant. We all have ties to Gascony, and it seemed the natural thing to make this the concept.
“It turned out I was going to do everything because they had a lot more money than me! Most of the money is theirs – the blood, sweat and tears are mine. I didn’t expect it to take over my life to this degree. It has been a very steep learning curve. I worked 18-hour days to get myself together and learn as much as possible and I made lots of mistakes.”
Monsieur Le Duck serves a lesser-known breed of duck called the Moulard, which is the size of a swan. One breast can weigh up to 500 grams – it’s a rich, minerally and red meat. Richard added: “If you did a blind tasting, you would think it was beef. Most people haven’t ever eaten it.”
Describing Gascony, Richard said: “It’s the most underrepresented area; really rustic, great food, great people but really quiet and rural. You don’t see tourists there. In Gascony you have relaxed, long lunches and drink carafes of wine, while sitting at plastic tables with Pernod ashtrays – the food is plonked down on the table – I didn’t feel that was the right approach to service in London!”
The restaurant originally opened as a pop-up in Brushfield Street, Spitalfields last November but they quickly outgrew the space. They opened this new restaurant on Clerkenwell Road in May. Local Buyers Club members save 20% off the lunch Monday to Thursday, 20% off dinner Mondays and Tuesdays and 20% off at the bar Thursday to Saturday from 5pm.
A write-up by The Observer’s Jay Rayner in February was a massive turning point for Monsieur Le Duck - their business doubled overnight. Richard dreams of opening a second restaurant in Soho, which he says would be “Monsieur Le Duck’s spiritual home.”
Asked if he feels happy, Richard said: “I’ve no time to feel emotions! I think I’m happy – definitely happier than I was sitting in an office and doing the same thing every day.”
The food at Monsieur Le Duck is simple and high quality. Menu options include Confit de Canard, Magret de Canard, Duck Wellington and a Duck Burger, a range of delicious croquettes as well as lots of veggie and vegan options. There’s a great selection of French wines and a good cocktail list.
The décor is rustic and industrial, with exposed beams and air conditioning vents, metal work and brick. Above the restaurant is Le Duck’s Nest – a gorgeous bar serving decadent cocktails and playing French Jazz.
Monsieur Le Duck runs a regular Armagnac Club, offering a fun and informative approach to brandy tasting. The next takes place on November 27th.
Reservations - email here.
More info: www.leduck.co.uk
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