At 197 Richmond Rd, Hackney restaurant Rawduck has been making an impression on the local food scene since April 2014. In a minimalist environment Rawduck provides all-day dining and fresh dishes thanks to co-founders Clare Lattin and Rory McCoy who have also created Rawduck’s sister restaurant, Ducksoup, in Soho. Expanding the concept of casual, solo dining and palette-testing surprises to the East of the City, we talk to Clare for an insider perspective on the raw, in Rawduck Hackney.
Getting to Know Clare
What were you doing before you launched any of your food establishments?
When I launched Ducksoup I was working in book publishing, a career I had followed all my life until that point. I was head of the PR department, so I worked with a lot of restaurants and chefs on their books. I was always very much into food, but this is where I began to fall in love with the idea of having my own restaurant. I felt the kind of establishment I wanted to go to didn’t exist, hence creating Ducksoup. Rory McCoy came in as general manager and Tom Hill as head chef – we’re all now business partners and opened Rawduck together.
What was the initial inspiration for creating Ducksoup and was there a noticeable gap in the market?
For me there was definitely a gap in the market. It was around the time of the financial crash and things were beginning to change, until that point it was often and all or nothing – cheap eating versus pricey and formal. Very little seemed to sit accessibly and good in the middle, and eating out seemed still to be something only done with friends. I wanted to create something that was casual where you could get good cooking accessibly; hop on a bar stool, order a well cooled plate of food, a good glass of wine and be done within the hour. The wine list was as important as the food – I wanted to be able to showcase wines that changed as often as the menu, rather than be forced to drink the obvious glass of wine. I wanted people to be able to discover new wines as much as they do new dishes. Ducksoup is this place, and we get so many people dining alone which pleases me, because I see me in them.
What was the inspiration behind a sister restaurant and what’s your connection to Hackney?
We’re passionate about food and the idea of places about food, so it’s not that we think about setting up new place because we want another place, but sometimes an idea is so strong you need to put it into practice. We’ve all lived in Hackney for about 15 years and for so long there was so little here and we thought Hackney needed the idea that we’d had. One day Rory and I were on the bus and we saw this slither of a building that looked perfect to bring a small idea we had into the foreground. It was cheap and so we went for it, and that’s how Rawduck came about. Opening here in Hackney was almost for the selfish reason that, at that point, we could not find the place where we wanted to eat in our own borough.
Which health focused methods go into making the food?
We make all our own drinks here, using ingredients with powerful health-giving properties such as our turmeric & nut milk or our hot apple cider & heather honey. Our drinking vinegars are made daily from making fruit shrubs using unpasteurised vinegars, which are full of good enzymes and good for your digestive system. On our dinner, lunch and brunch menu many of our dishes are vegetable based, and not huge in carbs. We use ingredients that are lighter, cleaner, and often raw. There are no methods to our dishes, other than we don’t wrap ingredients up in butter, sauces or cream – we just let them be who they are.
What have been the main challenges or difficulties in opening Rawduck?
I think especially with East London, it is such an incredibly discerning crowd, with people who know exactly what they want and how they want it, and it can take a good six months or even more for a restaurant to fully get into the swing of things. Being a local restaurant means it’s harder because your immediate customer base will be the same from day one onwards, so you have less time to get things right and need to have patience.
How does the interior design of Rawduck help encourage a community and healthy ambience?
We wanted a light and natural space and nothing over designed. We also wanted a convivial and open space without loads of tables for two overcrowding it, which tend to make a place look formulaic or cluttered. So we wanted it to be bar dining or sharing tables. We created a centre piece of plants down the middle of one table so if two’s do want privacy they can sit side by side and hide behind plants, which is much nicer anyway. I love natural materials and concrete is one of my favourites – I’ve always dreamed of having a bar in concrete. Fortunately my next door neighbour is an architect and created this bar and tables for us. We have light and natural wood and finally ceramics as the finishing touch, which I design and have made. I love the feel of earthy, hand-made tactile ceramics on the surface of hard concrete – which in turn is also beautifully tactile.
Which places in the world inspire your menu?
Japan is by far one of my most heavenly inspirations, and not just in food, but because everything they do or make seems to have style and a great rationale behind it. The food and flavours are mind-blowing. But I also love California for how it has influenced me in a lighter approach to eating, and teaching me a deeper love and respect for ingredients. All our experiences are reflected in both Rawduck and Ducksoup at different times. I think the world is now such a small place, not just through travel, but through the internet and use of social media… so many restaurants are taking a more global approach rather than sticking to one specific kind of cuisine.
Why does Rawduck focus on drinking vinegars and biodynamic wines?
They’re a big part of the more healthful approach we wanted to take. Our inspirations comes from our travels but also from where we are in our lives and how we want to eat. We’ve all found ourselves wanting to eat in a much lighter way. As we researched this more we delved into fermenting, reading Sandor Katz and Micheal Pollen’s Cooked was an enormous influence in the direction we took our menu. And our drinking vinegars are something Rory and I developed after stumbling across vinegar in a cocktail. We then found unpasturised vinegar had been drunk for centuries in order to cure or aid all manner of illnesses. Like ferments, it helps the digestive system prepare the body for food and absorbs all the required nutrients in the meal to follow.
Rebel Wrap Up
What’s next for the Ducksoup and Rawduck team?
We’ve just written the Ducksoup cookbook which will be out in Spring. We also keep an eye out for others sites whilst on the bus in case we feel one of our ideas is perfect for it!