Duck & Rice review

The dining rooms are inspired by 1920s Shanghai.
The dining rooms are inspired by 1920s Shanghai. Photo: James Brickwood

188 Pitt St Sydney, NSW 2000

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Opening hours Daily 11am-midnight
Features Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings, Outdoor seating
Payments eftpos, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 9023 9991

If you're going to call your restaurant Duck & Rice, then the duck and the rice had better be good. Just a thought.

Luckily, the Cantonese roast duck is very good indeed at this sprawling Westfield rooftop restaurant, recently opened by Brisbane-based Mantle Group Hospitality. The rice is another matter.

Duck & Rice shares the dizzy heights with Middle Eastern sister restaurant Babylon. Together, they make a restaurant precinct in their own right, seating more than 500 people across the 2000-square-metre space.

The go-to dish: Half Cantonese roast duck with po lam plum sauce.
The go-to dish: Half Cantonese roast duck with po lam plum sauce. Photo: James Brickwood

Mantle's NSW executive chef, Beau Lawson has assembled a traditional Chinese kitchen, with Kago Fong​ as head chef, former Mr Wong BBQ chef Ying Che Hung on duck duty, and dumpling chef Qing Hua Pi, of Tim Ho Wan and Golden Century, doing dim sum.

On one of those glorious Sydney days when the sky is clear and the winter sun is as warm as toast, there's nothing too shabby about nabbing a table out on the terrace and ordering dim sum. An eight-piece selection ($32) in a hexagonal wooden steamer showcases the fine skins of good pork and crab siu mai, delicate jade scallop and prawn dumplings, and earthy mushroom dumplings.

On one of those other winter days, the ones Sydney is in denial about, the unashamedly 1920s Shanghai-inspired dining rooms come into their own, sparkling with emerald-green marble tabletops, circular booths, iron lanterns and fluted Art Deco mirrors.

Assorted dim sum in a hexagonal steamer basket.
Assorted dim sum in a hexagonal steamer basket. Photo: James Brickwood

But back to the roast duck (half $45/whole $88). With a starting weight of 2.8 kilograms, even a half-duck is a big serve of remarkably tender, long-flavoured duck heaven, served with its own juices and a small bowl of sweetly astringent po lam plum sauce.

As for the rice, an odd multigrain version ($5 a head) is dull and claggy, and gets sent back to the kitchen. I seriously consider changing their name to Duck & Dim Sum, until a perfectly decent steamed jasmine rice ($3 a head) comes along.

The cooking is on the macho, rustic side of Cantonese, with thick-cut meats and hearty flavours. Hor fun – flat silky rice noodles – are nicely charred in a super-hot wok, tossed with wagyu tri-tip, bean sprouts and tea-smoked soy ($28). In spite of the beef's uneven slicing, it's one of the best dishes on the menu because of its smoke and scorch – and because someone, impressively, has trimmed each bean sprout of its stringy little tail.

Sauteed snow eggs and spanner crab with raw egg yolk.
Sauteed snow eggs and spanner crab with raw egg yolk. Photo: James Brickwood

Across the menu, results are mixed. A cold appetiser sees both drunken pork knuckle and salty jellyfish ($18) sliced too thickly to be texturally pleasing. Golden swathes of fluffy egg white omelette with picked spanner crab meat and funky dried shrimp ($32) is pleasant, but topping it with a raw egg yolk to stir through at the table just results in a leaking yellow puddle pooling at the base.

The real point of difference here is the rooftop; a drink-and-dine playground high enough for both sunshine, and shelter from the wind. Drop in after work for a drink and a snack, take a group for dim sum on the terrace, or snuggle into a booth for the namesake order.

You could call this Mr Wong Goes to Westfield – there's even a crowd-pleasing giant ball of crumbed, deep-fried ice-cream, served with red bean custard ($17). But Duck & Rice will do, with the emphasis on the duck.

Crowd-pleasing crumbed, deep-fried ice-cream.
Crowd-pleasing crumbed, deep-fried ice-cream. Photo: James Brickwood

Vegetarian: Three starters, two dumplings, four vegetable dishes.

Drinks: James Squire-friendly tap and bottled beers, orientalist cocktails (Guandong Spritz, Temple of Tranquility), five tap wines and a broad-church wine list with a focus on riesling and pinot noir.

Cost: About $125 for two, plus drinks.

Pro Tip: You will get lost. Enter via express elevator from Pitt Street or take the direct access lift via Castlereagh Street.

Go-to Dish: Cantonese-style roast duck with po lam plum sauce (half $45/whole $88).