Ducks Delights

Tasty, classy and fun are the three words Malcolm Duck chooses to sum up his Aberlady establishment. I would add a fourth – welcoming.

From the minute my dining partner and I entered the reception to five hours later (time flies at Ducks) when we were watching the most unusual game of “live” golf in the bar, Malcolm and his staff were on hand to check that all our dining needs were met.

Ducks began in Edinburgh, moving to East Lothian nine years ago. With a bistro, fine dining restaurant, bar and 23 rooms, there are plenty of good reasons to visit – and stay over.

Ducks isn’t the only feathered attraction in Aberlady. The UK’s first Local Nature Reserve, Aberlady Bay, attracts 15,000 Pink-footed Geese in the winter months and 10,000 waders in autumn. In fact Ducks encourages birdwatchers and walkers with its “muddy boots and dogs welcome” sign. The long wooden boardwalk out into the estuary can be glimpsed from the road. But that would have to wait until another day.

Kilspindie HouseOn this blustery Saturday evening there was a real mixture of diners – young and older, couples and friends. The fine dining restaurant is petit – nine irregularly positioned tables around the room. The decor was understated and white linen table clothes made it classy, while the odd assortment of dishes, including childlike side plates with little ducks on them, fitted Malcolm Duck’s idea of “fun”.

For wine connoisseurs Ducks is pure heaven. The cellarman’s wine list was extensive. To help us choose, we went with the MD MD choice of Sauvignon Blanc. The abbreviation means that Malcolm Duck has “drunk too much of it”. A single MD means Malcolm Duck recommends it.

If the wine list was extensive, the menu was limited – just three starters, mains and desserts, with a vegetarian option at each stage. The website explains that by having less choice, the standard of food is maintained at a high level.

With a relatively new head chef, three AA rosette-awarded David Toward, and two AA rosettes for Ducks itself, my expectations were high.

The duck and scallop amuse bouche was the perfect warm up to light starters. ine was a seafood lasagne with al dente pasta strips layered around mussels, scallops, half a quail’s egg and artichoke. There was surprisingly little sauce, however this allowed the seafood flavours to shine through.

My partner’s wild pigeon with winter berries, shallots and spinach, was delicious and disappeared fast.

My main was the venison wellington, tenderstems and baby turnip with dark chocolate – the trend of using bitter chocolate to bring out the flavour of meat and game shows little sign of abating, I’m glad to say. Whilst I’ve tried it with chilli and rabbit this was the first time with venison and it was a triumph.

My partner’s monkfish main with cockles, celeriac and pancetta prompted him to declare he could “eat monkfish all day”.

Pre-dessert, we were served tiny blue cheese-filled doughnuts – an interesting combination.

Ducks3 copyFor dessert, I chose the homemade wagon wheel, hazelnut and cherry – flavours which go so well together. The dollop of chocolate sorbet was melt-in-the-mouth and had a cocoa hit which lasted well into the evening.  My partner’s dessert of spiced pear soufflé, a mini apple Tart Tatin and apple sorbet was divine.

Rounded off with tea and coffee, the five courses was just perfect for this reviewer’s sparrow-like appetite. However, my partner’s capacity to consume is more akin to that of a bigger bird, so snacking started in earnest the minute we reached home.

Whilst we dined, we could hear the occasional roar from the bar. Whilst waiting for our taxi and enjoying “one for the road”, we discovered that it was another fun part of Ducks being played out – indoor golf. A wooden duck sits in the middle of the bar floor with a channel along its back. Hit a golf ball into the channel with great precision and it tips over letting the ball roll out the other side.  Sounds simple? Except the tee-off is standing atop a bar stool, and the tee is an adjacent bar stool, making it a far harder challenge.

Golf and birds are really what put Aberlady on the map. I’d like to add Ducks to that too. A night out of Edinburgh felt special – rather than a Lothian bus home we took a local taxi speeding along the  coastal roads through villages which makes this part of the world so special. Local public transport might be more tricky, however the thought of climbing the stairs to one of the rooms at the end of an evening of superb food, may appeal to many.

**** (4 star rating)

Three course meal £39 per person. Special room rates offered to diners. The menu uses local and seasonal produce, therefore changes frequently.


Ducks, Kilspindie House, Main Street, Aberlady, East Lothian, EH32 0RE.  

Tel: 01875 870 602


This entry was posted in Restaurants. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *