The first thing you need to know about Duck and Waffle is how to find it. It’s one of those places that seems to take pride in lack of any external sign of its presence. You only come here if you’re already in the know. Those equipped with insider knowledge of which unmarked side-door of Heron Tower to approach in order to find the dedicated lift that will launch you at dizzying speed past floor upon floor of glistening offices of the building atop which Duck and Waffle roosts, can saunter confidently up to the intercom with all the satisfaction that this sort of pseudo-exclusivity grants. If, however, you have come across the place by casually browsing the web for somewhere to breakfast, you may find yourself circling the building with a puzzled look until you finally pick out the rather minimalist steel plaque that announces its presence.
Unnecessary irritations now put aside though, stepping into the glass sided box and rocketing up to the restaurant level I realise that I am finally fulfilling a dream held since the age of 8 when I first got Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator out of the library. This is pretty much exactly what I imagined it to be like for Charlie, although [SPOILER ALERT!] thankfully we do actually stop without bursting out of the roof. The view of the surrounds is everything that you would expect, and while it doesn’t quite rival Paramount for full 360 degree ogling potential, it is pretty spectacular – well, until the fog rolls in that is.
As the first to arrive, I am guided to the bar area that precedes the restaurant itself where, despite the 24 hour licensing, I manfully resist the temptation to begin the day with a cocktail and instead load up with my first coffee. As the rest of the breakfasting contingent meander in, we are guided through to a spick and span eating area, with an open plan kitchen adjourning in which a veritable hubbub of activity promises the imminent delivery of an array of lip-smacking delicacies detailed on the board above. I say imminent, because in contrast to many of the establishments of this calibre, the place is almost full and clearly has been for a good hour at least. Casting an eye over our options, it becomes quite easy to see why.
After some deliberation, and having confirmed that the Full English option will be being sampled, I plump for the eponymous duck with his accompanying waffle – which arrives topped with a perfectly fried duck egg and a jug of intriguing mustard seed maple syrup concoction. This latter, contrary to all sensible expectation, turns out to work very well – though I can only imagine that it must have required a lengthy process of unpleasant experimentation with ill-proportioned mixes of the same ingredients to arrive at just the right balance of syrup sweetness and hot mustard tang.
Two of our connoisseurs opt for the Duck egg en cocotte (with wild mushrooms, gruyere and truffle) and both pronounce this to be exceedingly good, and I must admit a slight pang of jealousy – for all that the Duck and waffle platter was done well, I can’t help feeling that it is actually somewhat unnatural breakfast fare (mainly the duck element, which somehow just doesn’t strike the right note for a morning meal – although I can perhaps see its merit if rounding off an all-nighter out on the town).
No Breakfast Wednesday can be complete without at least one Full English on the table, and Duck and Waffle do not disappoint on this front – providing two options for those of hearty appetite. Unfortunately, we cannot elaborate on what exactly the the “foie gras ‘all day breakfast’” comprises, as the only clarification on the menu below this title is in the form of a single word. This word is ‘nutella’. Nobody present being willing to investigate the concept of ‘nutella foie gras’, it remains for now a tantalising mystery. The full English itself however, is every bit as good as it looks, coming with two eggs done any way you wish, a satisfyingly solid hunk of sourdough toast, succulent sausage and generous heap of crispy bacon. It must be said that what is described on the menu as “hash browns” looks rather more like bubble and squeak to me - but nevertheless, given that the vital consideration of gustationary merit is well and truly met, quibbling over such distinctions seems petty. My position on beans is well known, and I won’t give it undue precedence here – suffice to say that at least Duck and Waffle go to the effort of adding a ‘trotter braise’ to their offering in this department, which at least adds a veneer of breakfast respectability. Even if they have nicked the concept wholesale from the Hawksmoor. No shame in that though.
Last but not least, our party also partook of the the steak ‘n’ eggs benedict, resplendent in its glistening golden glory. You couldn’t ask for better presentation, this one looked simply irresistable with the sprinkling of cress granting a pleasing suggestion of healthiness without imposing the arduous futility of actually ingesting any substantial amount of vegetable matter. A fine report was given of the braised ox cheek that is the centrepiece of this dish, but the generous drenching of hollandaise does, however make this a very rich experience and it is certainly conceivable that anything less than a robust stomach may be slightly overwhelmed by it.
Did I say last? That was just the food! A moment’s due is required to cover the beverages also. The coffee was of excellent quality, and other tastes were also catered to in style. It’s never going to be my favoured morning tipple, but I have to confess that there’s not much to match the aesthetic satisfaction of good pot of fresh peppermint tea, and on this Duck and Waffle most certainly deliver.
All round, a most satisfying experience – and with a pretty wide array of tempting dishes left untested (smoked finnan haddock, colombian eggs, duck egg in a brioche basket … and yes, the ‘nutella’ foie gras all day breakfast) the chance of a return visit are high. And we’ll even know where the door is this time.