Whilst this was my first trip to the UK since 2012, that’s not to say I don’t keep up to date with all the latest London restaurant openings via my favourite food critics and through various social media channels such as Twitter and Instagram. I had been following Duck and Waffle http://duckandwaffle.com/ online since they opened back in the summer of 2012 and was excited to be able to finally visit the restaurant after reading what must have been hundreds of tweets and seeing any number of mouthwatering photos online.
Funnily enough as it happened, my friends K & P who were spending a few days with me in the UK had also started following Duck and Waffle on Instagram simply on the strength of how good the food looked. When I mentioned to them that it was to be our lunch venue on the Monday afternoon, their enthusiasm matched mine and it’s safe to say that expectations were sky high when we arrived on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower where Duck and Waffle is located.
The restaurant has been cleverly designed so there really isn’t a “bad” table. You are never more than 2 tables away from the windows that span across 3 of the walls (the other being the open plan kitchen) and as we arrived as most of the city crowd were heading back to work, we were able to enjoy the views from our table mostly uninterrupted giving us a spectacular vantage point from which to watch the incoming storms – Oh British weather I have not missed you one bit!
As we set about instagramming our menu and tweeting our surroundings we were surprised by a waiter bringing over a couple of complimentary dishes from the kitchen, something we had not been expecting in the slightest, I can only guess (hope!) that our enthusiasm was infectious. “Coal Charred Aubergine with Cumin, Sumac Yoghurt and Grilled Naan” was an extremely generous portion of smoky, silken, cumin spiced aubergine on a cooling yoghurt base, the citrusy sumac added a wonderful “zing” to the dish and whilst the naan was good, it needed no accompaniment and we happily spooned it into our mouths. “Bacon Wrapped Dates” concealed a spicy, salty centre of manchego cheese and Linguica sausage that played off perfectly with the sweetness of the dates and the heat from the wholegrain mustard sauce it was served with and just like that, he three of us were completely in love with the restaurant without having actually even ordered a dish!
But order we did. “BBQ Spicy Pig Ears” came served in a brown paper bag with a personalized Duck and Waffle wax seal, the sweet spice mix they had been coated in was a dead ringer for Frazzles those faux bacon crisps of my childhood – do they still make them? These were completely moreish and a genius snack, P was so reluctant to leave them that she snuck the bag with the last remaining slivers into her handbag for an emergency snack for later rather than waste a single mouthful! “Egg and Bacon” in the form of devilled duck eggs with Korean pigs head and sriacha was probably the dish of the holiday. The vinegary sriacha helped to cut through the fat of the pigs head which was just so soft it literally melted in your mouth. This is one of those dishes I could eat again and again if it weren’t for the fact I live some 6,000 miles away damnit!
“Dorset Scallop” with apple, elderflower, Cornish caviar and dill was another perfect salty/sweet combination and whilst the pigs head, dates and aubergine had been all about big, gutsy flavours here they were far more restrained and delicate so as to allow the scallop to still shine through. “Spicy Ox Cheek Doughnut” with apricot jam and smoked paprika sugar was a little bit sweeter then I had been expecting but it still proved impossible to put down, and whilst it may sound curious it wasn’t that far removed from a Chinese style Pao in my mind.
We hadn’t planned on having dessert but the appearance of the dessert menu, specifically “Torrejas” saw a sudden change of heart and we decided that sharing one dessert between the three of us barely counted afterall. A Spanish version of Pain perdu (or French toast) chunks of bread are soaked in milk or alcohol with honey and spices and then dipped in egg before being pan fried. Here they came served in a skillet with caramelized maple cinnamon apples and cinnamon ice cream which was slowly beginning to melt over the top of the sweet, buttery caramel sauce at the bottom of the skillet. Not a dessert for the light hearted but wow, what a way to end the already excellent meal on a high!
We drank a very pleasant £30 bottle of crisp Verdejo with our meal which saw the bill come to around £35 a head in total – really exceptional value for the level of cooking and service on offer, not to mention those stunning panoramic views of London you can enjoy throughout the meal (although it must be said we were so focused on the food, I could have been eating in a dingy basement for all I knew – I barely took any photos of the magnificent view!)
Working in hospitality, as I do, I was always trained that it’s simply not good enough to merely meet someone’s expectations – we strive to surpass them in everything we do and Duck and Waffle certainly managed that. I can still taste all the dishes in my head as I write this and I’m pretty sure P&K have had at least one Korean pig head related dream since they returned to Singapore (it’s not just me right?!) With the restaurant being open 24/7 there is every opportunity to visit should you be in London, the journey will be more than worth it.
Those of you that aren’t familiar with Duck and Waffle should click on the link here for a brilliant article by the Independent’s food critic Lisa Markwell who spent a full 24 hours with the team there – it gives you a little glimpse into what they do, far better than my blog post does.
Duck and Waffle, Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY
+44 (0) 20 3640 7310