It’s not just the altitude or the views that make dining at the top of the Heron Tower such an experience. Duck and Waffle is serving some of the finest and most inventive dishes in London.
The Heron Tower in Bishopsgate is one of the more recent additions to the London skyline. Situated between Houndsditch and Camomile Street, the tower lies in London’s historic and financial heart. Elevators ferry patrons up 40 floors to enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the capital imaginable. On the level below, its sister restaurant Sushi Samba is extremely vibrant, while Duck and Waffle provides a more relaxed way to experience London from such a great height. The decor is contemporary but quite minimal, as the panoramic views are obviously the main draw. Leather booths, marble topped tables, and a modern interior architecture imbues the restaurant with a relaxed sense of style.
Duck and Waffle has a vibrant and up-beat feel to it. The waiters are warm, attentive and extremely well drilled by manager Gavin McGowan Madoo, who also happens to be one of the capital's finest mixologists. The open kitchen, under the careful direction of head chef Dan Doherty, adds to the ambience, giving Duck and Waffle a real sense of bustle. The clientele is well-heeled, as you might expect in this part of London, but thankfully the restaurant is refreshingly unstuffy. There's a palpable informality to proceedings - patrons tend to mill about, taking in views from different sides of the restaurant (apparently the first thing Londoners do is try to locate their house in the distance), as their ears are bathed in the sounds of South America, blasted out by a particularly good sound and speaker system - so expect a party.
Despite London’s (debatable) reputation as the new centre of the culinary universe, there are few restaurants doing something genuinely interesting. Thankfully, Duck and Waffle is one of them, and it's serving a unique suffusion of British and continental styles at very competitive prices.
The menu blends the best of British, Spanish and French cuisines to outstanding effect, and uses the season’s best to ensure deliciously fresh plates. The traditional starter/main/dessert format is replaced with an altogether more informal approach to the dining experience. Patrons choose from snacks, small plates, brick-oven dishes and large sharing dishes. From the snacks, the ox cheek keema with chilli (£5) is finely executed, and the BBQ-spiced crispy pig's ears (£4) are far tastier than they might sound to some.
The foie gras all day breakfast (£10) is among the most innovative and delicious dishes to be found in London. Home-made 'Nutella' style spread on batch loaf bread is topped with a deep-flavoured pancetta and a delicate (and delectable) quail’s egg.
The signature dish of duck and waffle with duck egg and mustard maple syrup (£12) demonstrates that it is possible to get a decent confit in London. The meat retains its moisture beautifully, while the mustard seeds lend a glorious kick to the maple syrup. The duck egg is arguably surplus to requirements, but the waffle is as good as any to be found in Belgium or Holland.
From the brick oven, the roasted Essex beetroot with goat’s curd and honey (£7) has one struggling for superlatives. Beetroot is often perceived as lacking in real flavor, but there must be something in the Essex soil that produces such rich tones. The goat’s curd provides a creamy balance to the endorphin-releasing power of honey solids.
The spiced herdwick lamb cutlets (£12) strike the perfect balance between a charred exterior and moist centre, and the accompanying smoked aubergine lends a beautiful contrast in texture while complementing the flavor.
Cocktails lead the charge in term of libations, and whilst they don’t come cheap, there is a clear effort to provide something distinctly better than the standard. For instance, the Manhattan (£13) is infused with malic acid and bottled cinnamon smoke, while the Whisky Sour (£12)
contains rosemary and truffles - very fancy. The wine list is well considered, and keenly prices, with a Mendoza Malbec (£25) a fine accompaniment to any of the red meat dishes.
The Last Word
The view is a reason in itself to visit Duck and Waffle, but the outstanding gastronomic experience will ensure you return.