Wednesday 13 February 2013

Duck and Waffle at Heron Tower

It's another overcast day in London, which normally wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest, but I just had lunch at Duck & Waffle on the 40th floor of Heron Tower (Currently the tallest building in the City of London) and I wonder how much further I could have seen if not for the thick hang of fog obscuring everything beyond a mile and a bit. 

Duck and Waffle was first brought to my attention by Eve one lunch in the middle of January, and after hearing the magic words "Duck confit with deep fried waffles on the 40th floor of a building for £15" I knew I had to go. 

Three years into London, the furthest from the ground I've ever gone in this city has been six floors up in a school building, so the ascent up the great glass elevators at the side of Heron Tower was breathtaking not just for the speed it shot up at. (I wobbled a bit when it first took off, I am rather ashamed to say.) On exiting the lift, I went past a set of thick wooden doors together with a group of other restaurant goers, only too be greeted by a dimly lit corridor housing what seemed to be a near-endless series of washrooms. I briefly harboured the dull fear that we were lost, but eventually all of us emerged into the cocktail bar. 

The neatest and most colour-coordinated graffiti imaginable had been lovingly painted across a broad swathe of wall, and the floor was awash with blue mosaic tiles, but what caught my eye was the kitchen island stacked high with liquors, cocktail accessories, fruits and other garnishes. My liver twinged a little at the sight of it. Managed to tear myself away, and was very promptly seated next to a table right by the floor to ceiling window. Immediately began marveling over the view.
The main restaurant with an open kitchen
The view from our window
The charming sommelier told us the restaurant didn't have a drinks menu, but he was happy to make recommendations based on what we liked. I had a lovely Villa Russiz ‘Colio’ Pinot Grigio from Italy, which would have been far more enjoyable had the price of it not given me a heart attack when getting the bill. I may well have been better off trying one of their many artisanal cocktails. Ah well. Just tap the next time. 

Apart from that one glitch, service was attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. We were treated to a brief but helpful run-through of the menu and how the dishes were designed for sharing, which helped our choices along. Instead of getting two portions of the namesake dish and extras, we figured we'd just get one and spend the rest of the amount we were planning to on other dishes. This left us with a good mix of what the kitchen had to offer. 

The first dish that was served was the yellow-fin tuna with a balsamic reduction, basil, and a spicy chunk of watermelon, on top of a block of Himalayan salt. The undersides of each of the five moist slabs of tuna was flavoured by the salt block, which made the whole thing wonderfully moreish. 

Next up came the BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears. The thinly-cut deep fried ears came in a brown paper bag, all the better for semi-discreet munching. A small nibble was enough to crumble the thinnest, crispiest portions, but other parts were decidedly more chewy. Going through half the bag left a twinge in my jaw in the end. The BBQ seasoning was reminiscent of your average bag of crisps. I.E. It was as though a team of people with degrees in food chemistry had carefully calibrated the stuff in a laboratory and declared it the tastiest set of granules they could possibly make. The type of seasoning that makes you think it's probably doing irreparable harm to your body, but heck, let's lick these fingers clean anyway.  

The Smoky Mutton Sloppy Joe (£8) came with curls of deep fried mutton and a dash of parsley atop a thick and meaty sauce, held together by a fluffy soft bun. It was deemed good, then wolfed down without a second thought. After cleaning up the last bits of meat sauce that had fallen out (Eating is messy business), I felt quite bereft. Perhaps I should have taken more time with it. 

In between bites, I looked out onto the street below, and it hit me once again how practically everyone in London wears black much of the time. If people were toting around white bags, or bucking the trend and donning a red coat instead, it was immediately obvious from my vantage point.

The serving of the dishes was well-timed, and after the last of the Sloppy Joe disappeared, the plate was whisked away and the Duck and Waffle with Fried Duck Egg and Mustard Maple Syrup was brought to the table. The edges of the egg were fried to a deep golden crisp and wafer thin. The meat of the duck leg was juicy and tender, the fat melt in your mouth and the skin deliciously oily. I ended up gnawing at the bones by the end of it. I saved half my waffle for last and was surprisingly pleased to note it retained its just-taken-out-of-the-fryer texture all the way. The maple syrup was as shockingly sweet as we were warned it would be, which made filling the grid all the more delightful. 

Our dessert order was taken by a rather jolly man who proclaimed all the desserts wonderful, which made choosing even more difficult. Seeing how torn I was, he gave a short spiel for each - the Warm Chocolate Brownie was a crowd-pleaser, the Toffee Apples good stuff, and the Crispy Fried Mars Bars very interesting. I like very interesting, so my mind was made up. You really can't go wrong with Crispy Fried Mars Bars anyway. Unlike the incarnation I'm used to, this version was dipped whole in proper tempura batter then put in the fryer, and served atop malted ice cream and biscuit crumbles. Just look at the caramelly goodness oozing all over the place. Suffice to say, I savoured each bite, but it disappeared in record time anyway.

The restaurant is supposed to be open 24/7, which makes for very interesting possibilities. Will watch the weather next time, and later in the year I may come in hopes of a sunset/sunrise. Should be spectacular, and without the wine (which cost a small fortune) quite affordable considering the location and food quality. 

Duck and Waffle, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY

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