Thursday, September 20, 2012
For all London gets compared to New York, the cities differ in some important respects. One: there are relatively few skyscrapers in London. Two: nothing is open 24 hours a day here. But bring some enterprising New Yorkers to London, and they’ll find a a way to open a 24-hour restaurant on the 40th floor of one of the city’s only skyscrapers. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Duck and Waffle restaurant in London.
Duck and Waffle sits atop Heron Tower near Liverpool Street station in the City. Located one floor above its sister restaurant, the acclaimed Sushi Samba, it is part bar, part restaurant, and all floor-to-ceiling, 360-degree views of London.
I ended up at Duck and Waffle twice last week. The first time was for the launch of the 2013 Zagat guide. The place was packed with celebrity chefs in celebratory moods after announcements that their restaurants had won top accolades.
It was also buzzing with waiters offering larger-than-life canapes, including the restaurant’s signature duck and waffle dish. Unfortunately, the canapes were so large and the cutlery so small that I didn’t dare risk the awkwardness of attacking a waffle with a tiny fork while trying to simultaneously balance a drink and not make a complete fool of myself.
Luckily, I returned to the restaurant on Friday night to celebrate the 24-hour opening. I was invited to dinner at midnight to experience the restaurant’s new all-night dining service, and I looked forward to trying more of the food, this time sitting down with proper utensils at my disposal.
I arrived at 11:30pm and met my group at the bar, where I enjoyed a Manhattan from the restaurant’s classic-cocktails-with-a-twist list. My drink strayed from the norm in that it was served in a bottle surrounded by dry ice, allowing me to pour my own drink from a bucket overflowing with fog.
After finishing our cocktails and taking in the midnight view of London, we moved into the dining room at 12:30am. I was hungry and happy to start my meal, which commenced with a smattering of starters.
First there was delicious rosemary and garlic bread, then a few St John-style nose-to-tail bits: porchetta di testa (that’s pig head, kids) with olive oil and Amalfi lemon, little brown bags filled with BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears, and chip shop cod tongues. I wasn’t in love with the porchetta, but the pig ears were perfectly flavored and had great texture, and the fried cod tongues went down a treat.
Next came the fish. First we sampled amazing mackerel tartare with pickled cucumber, smoked vodka, and creme fraiche. Each bite was light and fresh with perfect hints of sharpness and cream. We also had yellowfin tuna with red chili, olive oil, and crispy garlic. It too featured a great balance of flavors and textures.
Next came Herdwick mutton sliders, which were thick, juicy, and moreish, and foie gras ‘all day breakfast’, which featured a thick slice of brioche topped with egg and—naturally—foie gras. It was sinfully rich and amazingly good.
By the time we reached the main courses, it was 3am. Indeed, the only downside to the dinner is that the dishes didn’t come to the table very quickly. They were so good, though, that I fought off exhaustion to try a few more.
One of these was spiced Herdwick lamb cutlets with smoked aubergine. The cutlets were generously sized and paired well with the eggplant. Another was caponata with soft goat cheese. The dish displayed an amazing depth of flavor, and the cheese was just the right thing to add a bit of sharpness to it.
By the time we finished these, it was 3:30am. I wanted to hold out for the elusive duck and waffle dish, but I just couldn’t do it. Maybe it was because I was exhausted. Maybe it was because I was full. Or maybe it was because I knew that Duck and Waffle restaurant is now open 24-hours and I can go back any time. I will, too. I want more of the views, more of the food, and more of that little taste of New York in London.