If you love duck, you’ll love Old Kingdom.
I am a self-confessed duck addict: from Peking to Paris I’ve loved my duck a thousand different ways, but when the craving comes knocking, you know you’re guaranteed to find me in Old Kingdom. This place is a Melbourne Institution (seem to be saying that a lot recently… I feel a ‘top 10’ post coming on…) and like all good institutions, it’s hard to get a seat. So call up in advance.
When you call, they will ask you “How many people? How many ducks?” – so hilarious is this matter of fact way of ordering your dinner, I have been referring to the restaurant as the ‘how many ducks’ place. At $55 per duck, this questioning of your duck capacity isn’t arbitrary, it’s a matter of resourcing. The standard rule of thumb is one duck per 2-3 people. We had 4 people, including two ravenous males, so we went with 2 ducks. No part of the duck goes to waste, it is used in 3 separate dishes – for your gastronomical pleasure.
The ducks are carved at your table (heads and all, not for the faint hearted/ethical vegetarians) and for the first course, we’re encouraged to roll the deliciously hot and juicy meat with spring onion and sauce, which is drizzled ‘masterchef-style’ over the duck, in the thinnest of pancakes imaginable.
They are hot, the plum sauce is intoxicatingly good and the duck is crispy, fatty, juicy and perfect. Luckily I’ve come with The Boy, my sister, and her boyfriend M; because I’m drooling into my lap awaiting the first bite and once the pancake tour de force is in full swing, I’m not going to be polite and leave the last one for the others to devour, no sir. My tip: don’t hold back on this course – it is easily the best and worth coming for even if that is all you eat.
The second course is so much more tame – the duck and bean shoots dish. Actually, it has a lot of flavour (and a different duck flavour because of the different meat that they utilise – I believe it’s the wing and thigh) and even if you’re not the biggest fan of bean shoots, it’s still delicious, crisp (owing to the bean shoots), warm and slightly salty – not oily at all.
The final duck course on the menu is the duck soup. I’d had it in Beijing and hated it – I think it tastes like dishwater – but here it is rendered in a subtle broth and the duck bits they use are still visible and still nice meat. You’ve been warned; sometimes they will chuck in the gristly bits too, but this is how it’s done: no duck is wasted. Personally, I slurp it up as a palette cleanser for the end of the very rich meal in order to accommodate some dessert.
However, dessert here is nothing to write home about .Here’s your standard deep fried banana with some icecream.
I’ve also heard varying reports on the dishes that are NOT duck. A good choice to accompany your duck is the Chinese Broccoli, just to get some different flavours going and some greens with your rich, meaty dish.
Some other tips: this place is BYO and you can definitely BYO beer. There’s the supermarket a block north with a liquorland so it is relatively easy to get something on the way. Also, expect carnage of epic proportions and do not wear a white top. The service in this place is, like all Chinese restaurants, pretty much non-existent – so order all you have to at the start, which will save you flailing your hands around like a retarded dance troupe every time you think of something else to order/request.
Value for money: 10/10 (where else can you get such amazing duck 3 course meal for $20-$30/head? I challenge you to find something comparable!)
Score (food is weighted double): 82%