If you follow the people I do on Twitter, you'll have heard an awful lot about Duck & Waffle. An awful lot indeed. It almost put me off going, so much were people wanging on about it, and then I realised that it must be quite good to generate such a buzz, and I should stop being so grumpy.
My vertiginous friend and I gingerly stepped into the glass-walled lift that would take us up the 39 floors of The Heron Tower in Bishopsgate, to deposit us in the bar area. Orange-dressed women wafted us up a curved flight of orange stairs, as we stared agape at the view. Hello, London.
The restaurant itself was smaller than I imagined, with a open kitchen where you might want to watch the chefs at work. I'm unsure as to why you would, with the view before you; the three of us were mesmerised by it. Later, when it became dark, the fireworks of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony were visible.
The head chef, Dan Doherty, was previously of The Old Brewery in Greenwich and we've long chatted over Twitter, though never actually met. He kindly sent us some crispy pigs' ears (£4), spiced with barbecue flavours and served in a paper bag with a wax seal. These were chewy and salty, nicely spicy, sometimes crunchy. They were seriously addictive, and possibly better than tooth-shattering pork scratchings. Maybe.
We'd given this burrata, served with pickled pink onions, capers and leaves (£9) a good poke by the time this picture had been taken and it spilled its contents all over the place. The bland creaminess paired with the sharp, peppery salad was a delight, and I wished we'd ordered some bread.
An oozy Scotch egg was jazzed up with using smoked haddock (£6) instead of pork, and served with a curried mayonnaise. This was pleasant enough but a bit on the salty side with a slightly chewy crust and I wondered whether anything really could beat pork wrapped around an egg.
Bacon-wrapped dates with dandelion salad (£7) was a flavour bomb. The dates were actually stuffed with a spiced sausage before being wrapped in bacon, so it was pure meatiness with some background sweetness. I really enjoyed this - it needed the bitter dandelion salad to help you along the richness - and you couldn't really eat more than one.
Mussels & clams with 'nduja and fennel broth (£10) was served with the house bread. Puffy and soft, we alternated between using this for the burrata and the shellfish juices, and it soaked them up like a dream. The mussels were small and sweet, the broth meaty and moreish. I wished more of the clams were open. Octopus braised with chorizo (£11) was smoky and tender, a generous portion.
Ahh the eponymous dish, the duck & waffle (£13). It sounds awful on paper; confit duck leg? Egg? Waffle and maple syrup...? But actually it was freaking delicious. The more mustardy maple syrup I drenched on it the better it was. It's a sharing dish, due to its richness (3 of us shared it) but what a dish it is, and well worthy to be the star of the show.
Desserts for me are usually an 'oh fine, if everyone else is', and it is not often I get excited about them. However, the torrejas with maple caramel apples (£7) was ordered for us to share and glad I am we did too as it was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The torrejas was a brioche-like French toast type thing, soaking up the maple apple juices. It smelled amazing, and tasted as such with the ice cream tempering the sweetness of it all.
Service was friendly and attentive throughout, and the room was nicely buzzing without being too noisy. There was a good mix of couples and friends dining with no sign of the braying suits that SushiSamba a couple floors below is reportedly plagued by. I loved Duck & Waffle quite a lot and we all tripped out of the elevator headed homeward and grinning.
In the interests of full clarity, the kitchen were very generous and we were unexpectedly sent a few complimentary dishes. We paid for the rest. My full Flickr set of the meal is here.
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