You know that you’ve arrived somewhere rather swanky when the front of house is nonchalant. In the uber-swanky they are polite, in the run-of-the-mill they are polite, but in the upper-middle class restaurant they are stuck up. They give you that look – once they’ve scanned the list with their beady eyes – the ‘oh yes, well you might have a reservation but that doesn’t mean that you belong here, you are punching well above your culinary class,’ look.
This is what me and friend Sophie were met with last night as we made our way up to the 40th floor of the Heron Tower – to our 9.30 pm reservation at the ‘Duck + Waffle’. Sophie and I are in the midst of rekindling our friendship. We were inseparable for five years – growing up together in the wings of our boarding house in rural Northamptonshire, but alas once we had packed our trunks for the final time and embarked upon the journey into adulthood, our lives drifted apart. In fact, before August this year I hadn’t seen Sophie since the 15th August 2007.
Our journey to re-build the lost years has resulted in a fair few suppers out. From a pizza night in Gabriel’s Wharf, to Sophie treating to me to a foie gras extravaganza at South Bank’s ‘Skylong’, to my treat last night – a trip to the most sought after restaurant of the moment – the ‘Duck + Waffle’.
Once passed the haughty blonde front of house, we walked through into the cocktail bar/waiting area. Glimmering chandeliers hung overhead and outside the lights of London glinted like an army of disturbed fireflies. The view challenged Centre Point’s and transported us to the likes of Tokyo and Hong Kong – to sky scrapers and modernity.
Two cocktail waiters got to work on our orders and soon the view was accompanied with a ‘dark and stormy,’ and a ‘whisky girdle.’ The latter was Sophie’s choice and came in a pewter tumbler, elegantly topped with orange peel, mint and whipped cream. Mine came not so elegantly in a bottle wrapped up in a brown paper bag – tramp chic perhaps…
The blonde returned and took us into the main dining area. As we walked through to our table, the panoramic of the city again stole our breath. And our seats, our seats were right by the window. Bubbly chat from the neighboring table lured us into reminiscing of our school years – the night of fun had begun.
A Mario look-alike waiter came over and gave us his suggestions – two small plates each and then one large plate to share. Looking over the menu and spying a £55 steak, I felt rather queasy but looking down this quickly passed – the signature dish of Duck + Waffle was attached to a price tag of £15.
“I definitely think we should go for the Duck, don’t you?” I said.
“Yes, I mean it’s what the restaurant is named after, so it must be good.”
A bottle of white, full-bodied and fruity Chilean Videviso arrived and we decided that seeing as we were there, we should go for it. Mario returned and we placed orders for the scallops, octopus, lardon, anchovy and caper bread, foie gras all-day breakfast and of course, the Duck + Waffle.
The lardon and the anchovy and caper bread were simple but perfect for filling the void that the 9.30 pm reservation had inflicted on our stomachs. The scallops were moist, tender and were brought alive by the golden raisins peppered over them. The foie gras had juicy skin and buttery interior which was rounded off wonderfully by the thick fried bread it rested on – we devoured it guiltily. The crisp octopus tentacles worked in an exciting symphony with tit-bits of salty chorizo, which cut across the palate gloriously.
And then for the main event: the confit leg of duck, the duck egg, the American waffle and the Canadian maple syrup – the Duck + Waffle. Sweet and salty, crisp and succulent, the dish was an oxymoron of flavour that battled against the norm and created a salivatory delight. Exceptional.
Duck + Waffle (before)
Duck + Waffle (after)
Delicately unbuttoning our trousers, sailing dangerously close to the ‘food coma,’ we couldn’t even be tempted by the cinnamon pear cappuccino. Looking out over the fireflies for the last time, we decided that rekindling a friendship was rather detrimental to the waist-line. It had been a fantastic evening and I can’t think of a better launching pad for another five years of friendship. The choice of ‘Duck + Waffle’ had done me proud.
Good luck beating it Sophie!