We’ve been waiting for a space to come up at Duck and Waffle since we moved to London, nearly a year ago. We haven’t been entirely dedicated but every couple of weeks we’ve looked and it’s been impossible to book a table for two at normal eating hours. But since the infamous 40-floors-up-making-it-the-highest-restaurant-in-the-UK dining venue is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we weren’t too held back by time, and settled for a 10.15pm reservation a few Fridays ago. Aside from trying to think of something to do until our table was ready (that didn’t actually involve eating!), we weren’t too bothered by the lateness.
After hanging around in a bar round the corner, like a desperate date not wanting to seem too keen but definitely not wanting to be late, we sidled up to the enormous Heron Tower and into a short carpeted queue. A very glamorous lady checked our reservation and led us inside to another short queue of would-be-diners and drinkers (Sushi Samba, well-known for fab cocktails and also D&W’s own bar, are both also located here). As the glass box of a lift glided down to us, we were instructed to exit at floor 39 and follow the stairs to 40. I’m not the greatest fan of the close confines of lifts, but despite being amongst a fair few other people, the glass exterior, allowing for the most incredibly view of London’s pulsating lights, helped, and the speed (see: very fast), meant it was over in a few blinks.
The view really is something else up there, and from our fabulously-positioned window table in the sky we really could see it all. Right beside the gherkin (and able the see the very top of it, you really are *that* high!) and with a stunning view of white and red twinkling lights, lining well-known streets, Tower Bridge, the Thames and as far as Crystal Palace, not far from our own home, it was no wonder our spot was Selfie Central.
We started with cocktails. Being big fans (see: Instsgram stalkers) of Sunday Brunch regular and alcoholic concoction King, Rich Woods, we sere excited to peruse the choices. Alex went for one he’d ‘seen on the telly’, an Old Fashioned with a salted caramel twist and I chose a lighter gin and elderflower mixture. The Old Fashioned came in its own hay-filled cradle and mine was a light and tall refresher that I could have had three more of in quick succession. We were here for the food though.
The menu wasn’t unfamiliar, having also stalked this online, so I already knew what I had to have. My dining partner is more patient and thus needed to read it all, giving the waiter time to recommend the number of items to order since we wanted to ‘try a bit of everything’. With the menu spit into Classics, Small Plates and For The Table, this was simple, but deciding it was a *bit* late for the 45 minute whole roast chicken with lavender (in my best Arnie voice: ‘I’ll be back!’), we mixed a few Classics with some Small Plates.
The waiter advised us that he’d bring the dishes a few at a time, starting with lighter and snack-type things and finishing on the sweet ones. Smart. First came a brown paper bag, emblazoned with a red medieval seal, stamped with a duck, of course. Inside were pig ears. Well, crispy needles of light, puffy and crunchy pork scratching-like pig ears. A great bar snack, which I thoroughly enjoyed the flavour of, but I did have to try to forget where they came from. We grazed on these throughout the next few dishes, a fresh and fruity salad of peaches and thick, gloopy goat’s cheese, a dough-y roundel of bread, topped with spicy N’duja and Gruyere, and steak tartare with a marmite egg yolk and punchy mustard. It was all incredible and made for a broad range of tastes, from the warming bread to the light and elegant morsels of raw steak, to the tart yet creamy arrangement of fruit and cheese. Writing it up, it doesn’t sound like a huge amount to share but we were getting quite full by this point. Still, the main attraction was yet to come.
After a short and asked-for wait and several glasses of icy water (it had been one of those hot hot days in London, not the best for several courses of food but we struggled on..), our final two courses arrived. One ostrich egg-sized, sugar-topped doughnut, in a pool of runny apricot and filled with minty, barbecue-y ox cheek, and, of course, duck and waffle, topped with a fried egg and accompanied by mustard seed maple syrup. The combination of sweet and savoury was spot on, and each tasted exactly as it should, while working with its opposite. The doughnut was airy and soft with a crisp outside and the ox cheek was plentiful and rich, shredded but bonded together in a really decadent and juicy ball.
I was very full by the time it came to taste the duck and waffle, but I made room for the crisp duck leg, which was succulent inside and really flavoursome. The waffle was light and toffee-y in taste, with a beautifully orange egg yolk just begging to be broken and met with maple syrup that didn’t squeak my teeth, thanks to the pop of mustard. Together, it was a taste sensation.
In my humble opinion, Duck and Waffle was entirely worth the wait, but the real compliment came from Alex, who is dragged along to every kind of restaurant with me for the purpose of this here blog, and often categorises them as ‘good, but I wouldn’t go back’. He commended Duck and Waffle on the ‘whole experience’ with the food being ‘out of this world good’. And I couldn’t agree more. Thanks D & W!