Duck and Waffle is on the 40th Floor of the Heron Tower on Bishopsgate. Eating high up or indeed doing anything truly high up is rather unusual in London, being largely a skyscraper-less city. This makes Duck and Waffle a novelty in itself and on a good day, the views across London are incredible. On a less good day, it is more akin to being in a white out at the top of a mountain, but without the alpine feel. The weather on our visit was distinctly more mountain white-out, but nonetheless the glass elevator shooting up 40 floors into the white-out was pretty cool.
Once upstairs, you first enter the graffiti sprayed bar area, which has an open bar in the centre of the room and plate glass windows on all sides. The great thing about the bar is that there is no need to reserve, so if the weather was good, you could pop up here to see the view for the price of a drink (not necessarily cheap, but worth it and inevitably cheaper than the anticipated price for the viewing platform at The Shard).
Moving through the Bar, you arrive in the restaurant, which again is surrounded by plate glass windows on 3 sides (the 4th side being the kitchen) and is laid out in a combination of booths (ideal for parties of 4 or more) and well-spaced tables. On our visit, the atmosphere was buzzy, with most tables occupied by a combination of families/tourists/locals and we snagged a booth right by the window, which was amazing (if you looked down amongst the candy floss of the clouds, you could just about identify some landmarks!)
I have to confess I wasn’t really expecting much from the food – I had read a few mediocre reviews (admittedly not necessarily of brunch), which appeared to suggest that D&W was all hype and didnt deliver. I’m pleased to say however, that on our visit at least, this did not ring true. We had a fantastic time – the food was great and well-priced for brunch (and unusual at times- particularly the Spicy ox cheek doughnut – more on that later)and the novelty of being so high up didn’t wear off! The only critcism was that service was a little ropey to start with, but that picked up too and was unfailingly friendly.
After agonising indecision over the menu, I plumped for Duck egg en cocotte with truffle oil, gruyere and soldiers, the boys had eggs benedict with ox cheek (rather than ham) and my other friend had smoked haddock with potato hash cakes and mustard cream. Everything was delicious. The duck egg en cocotte was served up in a mini cast-iron pan on wooden board, together with the soldiers. The egg was perfectly fried with a bright orange runny yolk and the melted gruyere and truffle oil delightfully rich and gooey. Pefect for dunking soldiers.
The eggs benedict was an interesting twist with the ox cheek and was well-received, even by my husband the die-hard traditional benedict fan. The ox cheek was very tender and (though stating the obvious) gave the meal a much meatier kick.
The fish was another winner (though it had a bit too much mustard cream for my taste), with two crispy potato hash cakes and perfectly smoked haddock.
We were so delighted by our brunch courses (and perhaps also because we are gluttons), we were persuaded to order desserts/another brunch dish. We (tried to) justify this excess on the basis that it was “effectively lunchtime” and therefore acceptable to have two courses, “particularly since we hadn’t had breakfast”. So after scouring the dessert menu and trying to order everything we went for one chocolate brownie with peanut butter icecream and caramel, one maple caramel apples, one cinnamon pear cappuccino with toasted gingerbread and finally, one spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam (off the sweet section of the brunch menu).
Normally I wouldn’t bother ordering a brownie in a restaurant, since whilst it always satisfies a chocolatey craving, it can be pretty disappointing. D&W’s brownie however was surprisingly good – it was served as 3 triangular gooey chunks of chocolate goodness, with 2 chunks of honeycomb caramel, peanut butter icecream and melted toasted marshmallow fluff. It was these accoutrements which made it – it felt like a dessert at a child’s birthday party – naughty, indulgent and fun.
If the brownie was the playful dessert, the cinnamon pear cappuccino was the grown-up’s dessert. Served up in a bowl with a strip of toasted gingerbread placed across the top and dotted with caramelised pear, pear sorbet and apple slices, it looked a picture. The “cappuccino” was a cinnamon infused pear-puree soup which was refreshingly light. The waitress advised breaking up the gingerbread and pear and eating it with the soup and the flavours were excellent together. This was definitely the lighter dessert.
My friend opted for the maple caramel apples, which I think wins the vote for the comfort dessert – piping hot apples in a warm caramel sauce with two pillowy triangular slices of maple caramel smothered brioche french toast and a scoop of cinnamon ice-cream. This was simply delicious (and I think my favourite dessert – I had a bit of food envy to be honest).
Top marks for most “out there” meal goes to the spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam. My husband ordered it on the basis that he loves doughnuts. As a friendly word of warning for other doughnut lovers, this is not really very doughnut like (other than the fact that it does appear to be fried). To be honest, it looks more like a large scotch egg, but with the ox cheek where the egg would usually be and the doughnut “batter” encasing it. The exterior of the doughnut is then rolled in spices that give off rather a smoky smell. A forkful of the doughnut with the apricot jam was an interesting flavour, but if I’m really honest, it wasn’t something I’d order again, other than for the novelty factor. That aside, we were pleased he ordered it, just to see what it was like! And it’s certainly the first time I’ve ever come across a meat doughnut.
As a general note of interest – D&W is (I think) the only London restaurant to be open and serve food 24/7. This means you could (if you felt like it), go to D&W at 3am and eat a full meal (though I am informed the menu is more limited during the night). In terms of the dinner menu – I understand it is made up predominantly of sharing plates and there is of course the signature dish of “duck and waffle”, another sweet/savoury pairing which I shall be returning to try.
All in all, I would thoroughly recommend D&W for a more upscale brunch, with views that will wow. In terms of prices however we were pleasantly surprised that our double course brunch bonanza with 3 pots of coffee and juice came out at a relatively reasonable £25 a head (including service). Given the surrounds and ambience when we walked in, we were expecting to pay more. Had we have been less gluttonous, and had one course, it would have come in at around £15 a head. Obviously, dinner would be pricer, but I’d say it would be a worth it for a treat.
Address: 40th Floor Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate
Nearest Tube: Liverpool Street
Go if: you like innovative food in novel surrounds
Don”t go if: you have a fear of heights