Dining with Natalie: Ugly Duck

As a native of culinary melting pot Malaysia and the daughter of a restaurateur, UG student Natalie Voo knows her food. Every other week, she reviews Groningen’s student-friendly dining scene. This time: Ugly Duck.

Having written a handful of reviews now, it’s safe to say I’ve gotten the hang of it, and generally I’d say writing about food comes quite naturally to me. Perhaps the most remarkable feat the Ugly Duck has achieved was being so painfully average it rendered me speechless. It’s easy to riff on awful food and sing praises about exceptional dishes, but tackling something as mind-numbingly mediocre as the Ugly Duck? Now that’s a true test of wit and will. 

Main course 

The steak was cooked well, but it was a bit too lean and tough for my liking. Hey, you get what you pay for – can’t expect top class A5 Wagyu on a budget. The mushroom cream sauce was just okay, missing that bold mushroom punch I love.

They main courses were accompanied by a salad and a surprising twist of leeks in cream, which, while not revolutionary, provided a welcome departure from the mundane fries and salad routine. The salad lacked seasoning and boasted the usual suspects of cheaper veggies. And the fries? Well… they were just fries. 

Now, onto the ‘duck stew’, which, spoiler alert, had no duck but beef instead (interestingly, there was no duck on the menu). The beef was tender and flavorful, though a tad too sweet for my liking. Still, it was the better choice between the two dishes.

Dessert

For dessert, we asked our waiter for a recommendation, and she suggested the ‘proeverij’, a chef-curated dessert sampler. It arrived with a brownie, banana ice cream, and strawberry ice cream with a perplexing texture – kind of like ice cream, but denser? We couldn’t quite figure it out, and a little explanation from the waiter would have gone a long way. As for the taste, well, they were all just okay. A bit too sweet, but not terrible. Not great either. Just… there. 

The service was okay, though sitting on the terrace meant the waiters were a bit less attentive. The ambiance, however, was lovely. The interior decor was charming, especially the random ducks scattered around the restaurant. The terrace was nice too, though it did come with some entertainment from the frat house across the street. At one point, a basketball came flying our way, and we were treated to an impromptu tai chi performance by a homeless man who had joined their drinking session.

Despite everything, I still recommend Ugly Duck. Their prices are quite reasonable, especially during lunch, the ambiance is pleasant, and the terrace is lovely on a sunny day. And let’s be honest, I’m spoiled – I grew up with an award-winning chef for a father, so exceptional food has always been my baseline. You get what you pay for, and hey, there’s nothing wrong with a bit of mediocrity!

Ugly Duck, Zwanestraat 28

A classic, familiar and affordable eatery that offers a large variety of European dishes. For two people we spent €47.60.

Ratings

Food: 5/10
Presentation: 6.5/10
Service: 6.5/10
Ambience: 9/10

Dutch

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