We live in deranged times in many respects, and nutrition is no exception. Foods that have sustained populations around the globe for millennia- meat, in particular, but also dairy, fish and eggs- are now portrayed by some as catastrophic for both human and planetary health.
Assertions to this effect are apparently validated by number-crunching epidemiology, a discipline I’ve come to see as the scientific equivalent of modelling clay, manipulated by the hands, and the ideology, of those who play with it. Some such statisticians model their data to arrive at conclusions that support the current faddish, and highly lucrative plant-based orthodoxy. My own sentiments, on the other hand, are summed up in the eternally wise words of that towering figure in nutrition, surgeon captain Thomas Latimer Cleave, who summed up such craziness as follows: “For a modern disease to be related to an old-fashioned food is one of the most ludicrous things I have ever heard in my life”.
Now the Partick Duck Club- the clue is in the name- is no rendezvous for anyone who is phobic about saturated fat, scared of cholesterol, or earnestly seeking to end consumption of animal foods. In particular, when we drop in for brunch, a glance at the menu shows that it’s all but impossible to avoid eggs. That’s fine by me. My domestic consumption is never fewer than 10 a week, and I’m always up for eating more. Eggs are first class protein, one of Nature’s most nutritious foods; the only micronutrient they lack is vitamin C. Eggs are versatile and cheap. Anyone who tells you to restrict them is a fool, a dangerous one if they’re in a position to influence public health policy.
At the Partick Duck Club, duck’s, rather than hen’s eggs, are standard kit, often with red meat, crème fraiche, all in the same dish, a pat of top quality butter on the side. Chips here are fried in duck fat, that glorious stuff, a highly stable, and therefore healthy fat that can withstand the rigours of high temperatures. And they’ve got their suppliers sorted out here. Excellent artisan bread and rolls from the heart-warming, yet thoroughly professional Freedom Food bakery, which works with former and current prisoners. Eggs, properly free-range come from Corrie Mains Farm in Ayrshire, and they do seem to have an extra eating quality about them that makes run-of-the-mill supermarket free-range and industrial organic pale by comparison.
So we’re sinking our teeth into a toasted Freedom Bakery bun that’s somewhere between a brioche and a morning roll in consistency, stuffed with porky Cumberland sausages (fried in duck fat) that have been thoughtfully halved for ease of eating, and a fried egg, lubricated with mustard mayonnaise (that’ll be more egg), and handmade chutney. It adds up to sheer satisfaction and heaps of flavour in each mouthful, fairly priced at £6.95.
Once bitten, twice shy, I’m leery about baby leeks, too often fibrous, slimy, and uncuttable. But here they are charred to an allium sweetness, not stringy, on top of toasted sourdough spread with soft black pudding and herb butter, under a plump fried duck egg, with substantial blobs of cheese custard (more eggs, milk, and of course the cheese) on the side. It works beautifully. The same goes for duck leg and ‘Nduja hash. Here the meat has been shredded, then combined with cabbage and onions that seem to have been softly sautéed with the fiery Calabrian sausage, then mixed in with cubes of duck fat fried potatoes. Naturally there’s a fried egg and dollops of cream on top, sourdough and butter on the side. The totality? Pleasingly varied textures that coalesce around fulfilling flavours.
Brunch here would feasibly sate your appetite and enable you to work or play for hours and hours without giving food a second thought. The same cannot be said for avocado on toast, washed down by a fruit smoothie. So while the world outside agonises about what it eats, while diets get wackier and wackier, within the walls of the Partick Duck Club diners radiate contentment, and it’s no mystery why.
Partick Duck Club, 27 Hyndland Street, Glasgow 0141 334 9909
Food: 9 and a half/10
Joanna Blythman, Guild of Food Writers Food Writer of the Year 2018