Simon’s Peiking Duck is one of those suburban food destinations that draws inner-city types out of their cobblestone alleyways and power-steering down the freeway.
Many of them have followed Simon Lay from his kitchen at Old Kingdom in Collingwood out to the lower reaches of Box Hill, all in the hope of finding the most perfect Peking Duck in Melbourne.
You will need to book a table (there are two sittings, 6pm and 8pm) and order your duck at least a day in advance, with my recommendation being a duck between 2-3 people. We had half a duck each and were very full in the end…but not so full we couldn’t be tempted by some retro Anglo-Chinese desserts.
When you arrive don’t bother looking at the menu in great detail – there’s Choice A ($55) or Choice B ($63). Both of them involve duck with pancakes and duck stir-fried, but my recommendation is to go with Choice B, which gives you a choice of noodles for the stir-fry and a duck soup to finish. For just over $30 a head and BYO corkage of $2 per person it’s a bargain.
Simon is a showman of the hyperactive Japanese game-show host variety. He first announces his bow-tied presence to us by throwing paper-thin pancakes at our waiting plates.
He then instructs ‘3 o’clock, spring onion, cucumber, meat, sauce, 6 o’clock, 9’oclock’ as he shows us the precise method of folding the duck meat and various accoutrements into neat packages.
At the centre of the restaurant he wields a knife and deftly carves duck for show (the rest are carved in the kitchen, they sell around 80 ducks a night), flirting outrageously with me while I take photos, telling me I look like a Chinese movie star etc etc.
The Peking Duck is certainly excellent. A thin crisp skin, not too much fat hiding underneath, juicy meat and home-made tissue-thin pancakes so unlike the floury store-bought varieties. I could just keep eating those pancakes all night.
However, the duck needed been divided to other courses. We had deliciously slick handmade noodles with shredded duck, shiitake mushrooms and what I presume to be a healthy dose of MSG given our duck-meat breath and slightly tickly throats the next morning.
The soup that traditionally ends the meal I have never been a fan of in any establishment, so I can’t comment on whether Simon’s version is worth an extra bowl or not.
Dessert is rarely the strong suit of a Chinese restaurant but we couldn’t go past deep-fried ice-cream and a phallic banana split. They were of average quality and really we could have done without the calories.
While the duck is excellent at Simon’s Peiking Duck, be aware that it is not a great venue for a romantic date. The stark lighting is unflattering, the atmosphere is noisy and festive, you’ll need to suck at duck bones with oily fingers and payment is cash only, potentially leaving you red-faced as you split the bill with your date when you discover you didn’t bring enough cash with you.
But if you’re after duck that’s finger lickin’ good, head out to Box Hill.
Simon’s Peiking Duck, 197b Middleborough Rd, Box Hill South +61 3 9898 5944
Fri, Sat 5-11.30pm
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