I wish I could tell you that my sister and I had spontaneously been walking down Bishopgate and then spontaneously swanned into the Duck and Waffle restaurant at the top of the Heron Tower to enjoy a spontaneous supper. But we didn’t. In fact, it was after several attempts to make a booking that, three weeks in advance, my sister managed to book a table for two at 5:30 on a Monday afternoon – the only available slot. Our journey to the Duck and Waffle was a struggle – but it’s safe to say that it was worth it.
We began by taking an [unsettlingly rapid] glass lift to the 40th floor of the Heron tower. Something about it made us feel quite glamorous. One of the best things about the restaurant is undoubtedly the location – the views of London are virtually unparalleled. We were very lucky to be given a table by the window where we could admire the city skyline and watch the dusk fade into nighttime.
The dining room was smaller than I expected, but very stylish all the same. The marble tables were smart without having the intimidation factor of white table cloths; I suppose it was a little like an upmarket bistro. Having smugly sat down by our executive view, I was manipulated into ordering an extortionately priced cocktail by my sister, which was, just to spite me, absolutely divine and (dare I admit it) just about worth the £14 I grudgingly spent on it. The most irksome thing about the cocktails was the fact that they didn’t actually arrive until half way through our main course, which I suppose sort of defeated the object. Although, other than that, it’s worth mentioning that the service was excellent (even if our waiter was a rather flirtatious).
When it came to ordering our food, I did feel there was a sense of moral obligation to choose the signature dish; the duck and waffle. Plus, the kitchen could cater to my inconvenient dietary needs and make me a gluten-free waffle, something that I had never eaten before. I know it’s a revoltingly predictable choice but I couldn’t help myself. Minna went slightly left-field and ordered the Jerusalem artichoke ravioli.
The dish is essentially quite simple and comprises of four elements, each executed brilliantly; a waffle, confit duck leg, fried egg and miniature jug of mustard maple syrup. The waffle was perfect (which, in all honesty, it really should be if the restaurant is named after it) – slightly crisp on the outside but light and fluffy within. Similarly, the duck was rich and tender with crisp skin, and the amber egg yolk was perfectly runny. Let me be plain; eaten all together, it was bizarre, but in the best way. Maple syrup with waffles is practically a necessity, and with the duck it also worked really well, as does all game with a little sweetness – duck is literally crying to be paired with sugar (duck à l’orange, Chinese duck with plum). I surprised myself with how much I actually enjoyed the syrup-y waffle with the egg (I half expected sensations of nausea to follow). Personally, I would have liked there to be more mustard seed in the syrup because it is quite a sweet dish, which is perhaps better suited to brunch than dinner, although admittedly I would devour this at any time of the day. Regardless of the food, the crockery itself was beautiful. I love the free form of the plate, along with the dappled colouring, and fossil detailing.
The main course was both filling and rich, and my purse was alarmingly light, but I have always struggled to say no to a pudding – my sweet tooth is too mighty and my will power is too weak. My sister devoured the dark chocolate brownie sundae – fudge brownie pieces, chocolate and peanut ice cream, peanut crunch, salted caramel – which boasted such richness that even she struggled to finish it. I chose the roasted corn & buttermilk mousse through sheer intrigue, and it was absolutely divine. The main element of the dish was [obviously] the mousse, which was the lightest and fluffiest I have ever tasted, almost like an Aero bar in mousse form. The flavour was very unusual; there was a subtle corn flavour, but also a tang from the buttermilk, and saltiness from the salted caramel drizzle. It was served with a creamy, rich dark chocolate ice cream that had a genuine, deep chocolatey flavour, which I was pleased about since I really don’t like those pale chocolate ice creams that taste like weak hot chocolate and not much else. Crumbled pistachio praline (!) and caramel popcorn brought both texture and colour to the plate. The popcorn in particular impressed me since I’m really not a fan of the stuff – however this one was the opposite to sickly sweet Butterkist and was coated in crunchy, homemade caramel which was slightly bitter. The pieces of ‘crispy milk’ were peculiar things and whilst they didn’t bring much flavour to the party (they literally tasted like milk in crumbly, solid form) they were certainly a welcome novelty. It was such an original and interesting pudding, which, much like my main course, forced me to re-evaluate my misconceptions on which foods ‘go’ together.
With such a glamorous location paired with stunning views and innovative food, our evening at Duck and Waffle really did feel like a special occasion. And, I think it’s safe to say that the sense of occasion was truly reflected in the bill…