You should never make a comment about a restaurant before you’ve tried it.”
That was a strong lesson from a man, a total stranger, sitting at the table next to me, which ended our morning debate over the much hyped-about The Breakfast Club a few months back. For him, it was his holy grail breakfast place. For me, an overly hyped-up place with ridiculous queues serving average American-style breakfast dishes.
While I still have yet to visit The Breakfast Club to this date, his words had struck a spark of fire inside me – the courage to try all these new and exciting restaurants in London, especially those I have been wanting to visit, but prevented by that prejudice I’ve formed in my head. One of those restaurants at the top of my list was Duck and Waffle. The highest restaurant in London residing on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. The restaurant that was so arrogant you have to reserve your table two months in advance, despite it being open 24⁄7. The restaurant that I have always had a major grudge against for turning me away from a 7:30 walk-in attempt on a Wednesday morning.
It wasn’t only their pure arrogance that put out the flame of curiosity deep inside my heart. It was the contrasting reviews from excited captions on how amazing the food is with the glorious sunrise, to paying for the view rather than the only-average food. These voices had been debating in my head for months and months, kicking the idea of visiting further and further to the back of my mind. But finally, I’ve decided to find out for myself, with my own taste buds. It was quite a spontaneous decision. I was sitting at the back of the lecture theatre feeling miserable for myself for sitting through yet another hour of the lecturer’s slow, droning voice, and how I deserved a nice breakfast to treat myself. The next moment I found myself on Duck and Waffle’s reservation page, desperately clicking on every single date for the next 2 months, in search for a slot at a reasonable time among all the “We apologise: there is no availability at that time.” and a handful of 6am slots (6am is NOT reasonable). I laughed at myself for putting in such effort, until the page loaded for the 20th time… Landed a table at 8:30am on a Tuesday morning a week away.
That was like winning the jackpot.
That morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed bright and early, rubbed our groggy, sleepy eyes in the commuter-packed tube journey to Liverpool Street, and stared up the shiny, glass building of the Heron Tower. We entered the door to the reception of Duck and Waffle and Sushi Samba, and was met by a hostess with an unexpectedly sloppy attitude, who took my name and pointed us to the right – a security guard.
I discreetly rolled my eyes as the guard swiped his detector under my armpit. Yup, arrogance, check.
Now, the fun part. The glass lift shot us straight up from ground to the 40th floor like those capsules in sci-fi movies. The door opened to a stylish bar, beautiful blue, tiled floors, and a handsome bartender who pointed to yet another reception.
We were led further into the main part of the restaurant: a modern, spacious room with crystal clear, floor-to-ceiling windows, sofas, marble tables and an open kitchen. We were seated right by the window, over-looking the thick blanket of fog blanking out the view. (Typical British winter weather.)
We made ourselves comfortable, looking around at the other diners who were all adhering to the strict dress code. The room was half-empty (or half-full, if you are the optimistic kind), relighting my grudge for being shooed away from a walk-in. Maybe they wanted to keep that prestigious, oh-we-don’t-open-to-random-people sort of image?
Putting that aside, we glanced over the menu and swiftly decided on two of their waffle dishes. For the savoury, their signature duck and waffle, and for the sweet, their caramelized banana waffle. Plus coffee to wake us up.
Our waffles arrived at our table in a moment, while the coffee took their time (coffee ended up just average so I’ll skip that). Both dishes looked absolutely amazing, or, in my words, Instagrammable.
The duck and waffle was a simple construction of half a waffle with a duck leg confit, fried to a crispy, golden brown, a glossy fried duck egg on top and a little jug of mustard maple syrup on the side. Wrapped inside the crispy skin of the duck confit was shreds of juicy, tender meat, surprisingly not greasy. The sweetness from the maple syrup and the savoury duck was like a match made in heaven. The duck had surpassed my prejudice and expectations and earned itself a round of applause. However, the waffle itself was just an average waffle, nothing exciting. The caramelized banana waffle was a bit of an anti-climax as it didn’t have any of the wow-factor compared to the former dish. It was a simple dish of waffles with their house-made hazelnut and chocolate spread, smooth vanilla ice cream and a banana, split in half along its length, caramelized and skilfully balanced on top. Perhaps my expectations were too high – it was just waffles after all.
Thirty minutes had barely passed and we were scraping the last crumbs off our plates. Duck and Waffle, despite the slightly unprofessional service, was an eye-opening dining experience and is definitely worth a visit. Food-wise, stick to the duck and waffle – quoting my lovely companion: “The restaurant is called that for a reason.”