Duck and Waffle seems to be the name bandied around most on Twitter right now, though it’s hard to tell sometimes it changes so quickly, so by the time I go on Saturday at least two friends are already raving about it and expectations are high. I’m also unfeasibly excited about the lift ride to the 40th floor of The Heron building where the restaurant is located. My plan is to have a sneaky solo visit before meeting friends later this week, curiosity has the better of me and with a blank Saturday afternoon I can’t think of a reason why not. A friend joins me at the last minute and we meet at the foot of the skyscraper.
Bouncing with glee, I enter the external lift and make all the relevant ooing noises as it takes off, I’ve clearly underestimated how high forty stories is though as the glass box continues to rocket upwards, the ground drops away alarmingly and we continue to rise, travelling with speed far past a point I thought possible, fearing we may burst out of the top in some sort of architectural malfunction, surely it’ll stop I think with mild panic. And we do, entering the restaurant is tantamount to walking off a rollercoaster, feeling slightly dissorientated and yet exhileratingly the height remains, we’re suddenly equal to those buildings I’m used to straining up to see, panoramic views are awe inspiring.
I lie, the lift doesn’t actually go quite the 40th, but spits you out at SushiSamba on the 39th, whereby you climb a perspex set of stairs (what can those seated below see?!) past a cacophony of chandeliers on the inside, and the top of the Gherkin out, and up into the Duck and Waffle bar. We move straight through for now, past the large open kitchen, and are seated at a small, slightly clinical looking, table at the very precipice of a stunning montage of London languishing all around us. The menu is explained to us, er ok, so we order some snackettes. Peas in the pod are gloriously simple, we hoover peas from their little sleeves and catch those that have escaped, scooping up bacon laced spoonfuls that burst with fresh flavour. BBQ crispy pigs ears arrive in a sealed and branded brown paper bag, and they’re abundent, highly addictive savoury bites of pig, that in the end are a squeal too far for me, cartilage crunches through the softness of tender flesh. It’s a textural thing and I’m infuriated by my squeamishness.
There’s no cocktail list as such yet, though there are three outlined on the website, so we ask for their most exciting/interesting/crazy concoctions. My friends dark and stormy turns up in a glass bottle within a twisted brown bag, tramp style. My ‘house style’ Manhattan is something else entirely; a metal cylinder is brought to the table concealing a glass bottle which our waiter pours water over, filled it seems with dry ice, it errupts in billowing smoke, filling our senses with a cinamom aroma. I’m left to pour my own drink from the glass bottle which is filled with more of the same, we both fall upon the bottle delighting in inhaling intense smoky scents. The cocktail itself is a sweet and heady mouthful of spiced Manhatten made more delicious by the theatre and backdrop. Fun!
At this point chef Dan Doherty comes over with something he’s been working on, a small plate holding two globes; doughnuts! Oh boy, you know I love a doughnut…tearing into that sugary exterior reveals perfectly fluffy dough containing intensely savoury ox cheek. The pair of us are torn between loving the unnusal combination and yet not quite sure how the two components meld; sweet paprika sugar, that consequently coats everything in dayglow orange, with that gorgeously rich interior, anyhow they thoroughly delight and are quickly devoured. I can’t wait to see how Dan manages to perfect them, as I’m certain he will.
A glance over the menu reveals two fairly obvious choices; the duck and waffle, and the foie gras ‘all day breakfast’, a requested description of which has us both quickly vying to win this divine dish, we settle any arguments by ordering both and sharing. Duck and waffle arrives first and is easily divided; a quarter waffle each, part of a perfectly fried egg, we pull chunks from a fat duck leg and drench everything in maple syrup bobbing with mustard seeds. It’s a pleasing dish, fun (that word again), and one of the restaurants few permanent plates being it’s namesake, but not quite perfect; the duck is a little greasy and lacks much flavour. We’re quickly distracted by the arrival of our other dish, which is the most perfect little plate of food, I’m loathe to cut it up. But I do and give half away, hmmph, a chubby brioche slice is smeared with nutella, layered criss cross with crispy bacon, a monumental slab of foie gras (this dish is currently only an incredible £10), fried quails egg and black pudding balls. It’s a wonderful meal of richness, just about cut though with salty pig shards, if arteries allowed I’d happily come here daily for this alone, and wallow in affordable decadence.
We decide against dessert, that all day brekkie satisfying all sweet and savoury desires for now, and retreat to the bar instead for a second cocktail. The inside out bar concept is designed to encourage customer interaction, the middle of the bar is filled with intriguing jars, bottles and equipment, whilst the accomplished mixologists concoct imaginative, and successful, cocktails around it’s edge. We both go for a whisky sour topped with truffle foam, the truffle aroma is at first perhaps overpowering but somehow works with the cocktail rather well. Drinks are expensive, but I’m happy to pay for the effort that goes into making these, however they do quickly bump up what is actually an incredibly reasonably priced menu, far more reasonable than you’d expect on the 40th floor of a grand building.
There’s many things I want to return for, that brekkie for one, I also have my eyes on the rabbit ragout, meatballs and garlic bread, ox cheek keema naan, roasted burrata with caponata and that finalised doughnut, oh, and not least for the Negroni filled ice sphere that you break into with a hammer that’s being perfected; Oh my! Mainly though, there’s something, many things, about the restaurant that renders pure, sheer delight, almost like a delicious fairground ride, I’ve never giggled and gasped so often over a lunch. Duck and Waffle is doing many things right, and as a friend said, she wouldn’t know how to write more than ‘I love it’ for a review. Maybe I should have suppressed my waffle and left it right there…