The Dancing Duck is one of Westbourne’s most recently-opened establishments, having recently taken the place of a wine bar called Soho, and I have often walked past it on my ways to and from Bournemouth and wanted to go in – its rustic exterior and always-open windows are quite inviting, not to mention the words “Food”, “Champagne”, “Cocktails” and “Good Times” emblazoned on the front.
As per usual with my Westbourne-based reviews, I was joined by my friend Ellie Wicks. We immediately both spotted the Cocktail of the Day – “The Pain Killer” – a concoction that sounded quite lethal until we asked what was in it. It was conversely quite a tame-sounding beverage consisting of white rum, coconut cream, and orange and lemon juices I believe. I did try to order one later in the meal, but was later told that they had indeed run out of rum, which only led Ellie and I to question how and why they would continue to advertise something they could not sell!
Our waitress appeared to be new or still in training – she didn’t seem to be altogether au fait with the correct manner in which to address customers, such as replying with an incredulous “What?” when I asked her what was in The Pain Killer cocktail. We had to request menus as well, and wait for another waitress to ask us if we wanted any drinks, which didn’t impress me too greatly.
This place seems to do breakfast as eagerly as they do lunch – offering a very decent array of dishes to order in the morning. It’s more sandwiches, baguettes and burgers for lunch as opposed to the usual pub grub one might expect from such a place. Ellie and I both settled for burgers – myself a Moose Burger (pictured left) – which, as the name belies, does not actually contain any moose meat – and Ellie one of The Dancing Duck’s house burger (pictured right).
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that from the look of those two pictures, there doesn’t appear to be that much difference between the two. I believe the fillings separate them, as I could see Ellie’s was covered in American-style cheddar, whereas mine had a fat rasher of streaky bacon resting atop it. Tomato salsa, gherkins, lettuce, a delectably-savoury mayonnaise; all these things compliment one another wonderfully. Nevertheless, it’s probably easier to cut the burgers, as we did, than pick them up with one’s hands.
However, to look at, not the most attractive dish. I quipped to Ellie that I had seen healthier looking onion rings under the wheels of a bus, as they had been a bit too deep-fried, in my opinion. A light golden brown is what you’re looking for when it comes to onion rings, as opposed to the almost chocolate colour with which we were presented. By contrast, the chips and the coleslaw, which had been given a nice twist by adding slices of yellow pepper, were both very tasty and cooked to a good standard. The tray in which the dish is served is not very visually appealing, but necessary, as making a mess with one of these burgers is almost inevitable. I know it sounds like I have really slated it, but don’t get me wrong here – that was a good burger. The improvements are needed elsewhere around the plate.
For some reason, Ellie and I were mad enough to order dessert afterwards, not realising how full we actually were. The dessert menu is similarly very limited, with only a couple of choices that could be considered traditional puddings. But our attention had already been captured by the waffles. Having had a similar choice of dessert at places like Coffee Club, situated just a couple of minutes away, I think we had an image of what we were due to receive, but dear God were we wrong:
Cram everything your diet forbids onto one plate and you have one of The Dancing Duck’s waffles, coming in around a half-dozen versions, such as the Rocky Road Waffle (pictured left) that I chose, or Ellie’s choice of the Banoffee Pie Waffle (pictured right).
Unlike the Belgian Waffles I was expecting, these are the proper American-style egg waffles, with no apparent sweetness to them at all – just a general, well, blandness to them for want of a better word. Smothered to the heights in whipped cream, two flavours of ice cream and rocky road marshmallow bites, it was basically a one-way road to a diabetic attack on a plate. Shamefully, I could only manage half of the dish – even for me, all that sweetness was just too much. Ellie, however, opined that the waffles may have been better if they had been sweet rather than savoury, but then did agree with me that it might be too overpowering and sickly, even for a diner with the biggest sweet tooth. In her opinion, the Banoffee Pie Waffle lacked the sauce that the Rocky Road had in excess, and said she would have appreciated more, amongst all the cream and fudge.
This place gets a good score for the quality and value – the bill came to just under £60, but the house vodka is Stolichnaya, so that was to be expected with the amount I had. However, points get lost for the level of service, which could be improved upon. It’s all very well being a fairly newly-opened place, but that’s no excuse for “What?”-ing a customer under any circumstances. And also for advertising a cocktail for which they didn’t have all the ingredients – that’s just bad business. But with that aside, all-in-all a pleasant, if stuffing meal. Ellie summed up our opinion on the portion size:
Make sure you go to The Dancing Duck on an empty stomach!
And I, for one, could not agree more.