How we brunched:
I have a confession, readers. There was a time when I wasn’t in the mood for Brunch. I know, it’s hard to believe. How could I, Hattie, co-founder of internationally renowned* blog Best Brunch Ever, brunch advocate and Jamie Oliver Superfan not want brunch? Well all I can say is, if you’ve been on a wild long weekend in Krakow and flown home at 4am with a hangover, it’s hard to psych yourself up. There was only one place we could go to that would have felt worth it. Duck & Waffle.
Duck & Waffle is already getting quite the brunch reputation among London foodies. Situated in the financial heart of London, on the 40th floor of the Heron tower, it serves food 24/7, perfect for business lunches, post-cocktail dinners and shattered tourists getting off redeye flights. Loaded with rucksacks and suitcases, we were whizzed up in a glass lift and stumbled, blearily, into the restaurant with views of the entire city. A smartly dressed waitress took our coats and bags, seated us straight away, and brought us coffee.
The restaurant is classically stylish, with wooden floors and ceilings, white napkins, sparkling wine glasses, waiting staff in white shirts. It would be easy for a group of scruffy, sleep-deprived twenty-somethings to feel out of place, but our welcome was so warm that we took to our seats like, excuse the pun, a duck to water.
We knew what we were here for – the trademark dish, the duck and waffle. An American waffle served with a crispy confit duck leg, a fried duck egg, and mustard maple syrup. Whoever thought to pair these ingredients was a genius with the perfect touch of madness. You hear about this dish and you immediately have to have it – £17 price tag be damned. I can tell you, it lives up to all expectations. The duck skin is crispy and the meat falls apart, the egg is cooked perfectly with a runny yolk that cuts through the duck’s saltiness and soaks into the waffle. The maple syrup gives the sweet touch that pulls the dish together, but not too sweet, with that hot mustard kick that you wouldn’t be able to totally identify if you hadn’t been told, but would just know felt right.
At the advice of a colleague of mine, we ordered a bag of crispy pigs ears for the table – don’t be put off by the idea of eating ears, it’s just pork crackling with spicy-sweet barbeque flavouring. Then we got a basket of pastries to follow – they were soft, buttery, and everything you want a pastry to be.
It only took an hour for us to feel human again – a tough ask, but one Duck & Waffle didn’t even flinch from.
*we totally have an American reader – HI MATT
Now, if there’s two things you need to know about me, and my experience at the Duck and Waffle, it’s these: I do not deal well with mornings, let alone after staying in a hostel with a bunch of Liverpool Lads for four days and then getting up at the crack of dawn to catch a Ryanair flight. Secondly, coffee has a really nasty effect on my stomach if I have it more than once a fortnight, and I had lifted my self-inflicted ban for the duration of the holiday. Needless to say, my body was beginning to rebel. (This isn’t just TMI – it will be relevant later.)
Back to the first point. Even though it was now 11.30am, and I had been up for about seven hours, I wasn’t awake. I had napped in the taxi, napped on Hattie on the plane, and napped on the tube to Liverpool St, but I had never actually managed to sleep anything off. I’d basically just preserved myself in the initial confused 4am state. People would ask me questions and I would just blink at them until they went away again.
I sat down, and against all sense and reason I ordered more coffee, desperate to be awake for the Duck and Waffle’s signature dish. I had barely even registered the surroundings. I don’t know what we talked about while we waited. I probably just napped some more. Who knows?
And then it arrived. You know how good Hattie made it sound? It was better. Duck is my favourite meat, and putting it on a waffle with egg and covering it with syrup… it was amazing. The whole thing tied together so perfectly, and I inhaled it so quickly that I barely stopped to breathe. When I looked up, it was like Dorothy opening her eyes in the Technicolor world of Oz. The incredible views of London came into focus and I fell in love with the city all over again, right there. I looked at my friends and felt overcome with joy. I couldn’t stop grinning.
“I knew that if anything would cheer you up, it would be the duck and waffle,” said Hattie, grinning back at me.
“How was your meal?” asked the waiter, leaning over my shoulder to take my plate.
“Amazing!” I said, and I started laughing with sheer euphoria. Then I started coughing. Then I laughed at how much I was still coughing, and then my eyes welled up, and then I was snorting snot into my mortified hands, and then I genuinely thought I would throw up right there at the table on that beautiful bright white table cloth. I have never reacted like that to anything else; my body had gone from 0-200mph in about five minutes, and it just exploded with the pressure while my friends – and presumably everyone else in the restaurant – looked on in horror.
Except the waiter, that is. An absolute hero and the embodiment of professionalism, he fetched me a napkin and a glass of water in seconds. When I finally managed to calm myself down and, mercifully, stopped thinking I would vom up the incredible meal I had just consumed, he was gone – saving me any further embarrassment.
The whole thing was completely bizarre, but undeniably one of the best meals of my life. Just don’t spend four days in Poland drinking neat vodka in a hostel basement before you arrive.
5/5 – You know the hyperventilating thing I said last week? This was it.
5/5 – And when she says “hyperventilating”… she means it.
4/5 – It’s not a long menu, which is a sign of high quality, but I would definitely go back to try things other than the signature dish
5/5 – It has five dishes under “eggs” alone, you can go classic with a full English breakfast, and there are decent veggie options too. (Not really for vegans, but if you’re a vegan you’re reading the wrong blog.)
3/5 – Cocktails and wine, and coffee and tea, but nothing amazingly brunch specific.
3.5/5 – Everything you need, but not much more. But what they do have is great.
5/5 – This is definitely a two-course brunch place, with sweet waffles, perfect pastries and even a chocolate brownie sundae recently on the menu.
5/5 – Those pastries though.
4.5/5 – It’s a bit too corporate to be really buzzy, but beautiful views, calm, clean and spacious.
4.5/5 – Pretty much that.
4/5 – It’s expensive, especially the signature dish, but the quality is worth it
3/5 – I don’t regret spending the money, but you can’t exactly go there every weekend.
5/5 – Friendly, professional, prompt and didn’t complain that we were late and looked like we’d walked from Poland on foot.
5/5 – See above. Shout out to any waiter who is cool about how utterly disgusting I am.
– Social Media
4/5 – They replied to our tweets and their twitter is pretty much all food porn.
5/5 – Chef Dan Doherty personally replied to my tweet telling the above story saying it had made his day, which in turn made mine.
Total points: 70.5/ 80
– Amazing views: 5/5
– Fancy bathroom: 4/5
– Cool head chef: 4/5 (sorry but Jamie Oliver still exists)
– Ability to make Amy cry: 5/5
Bonus points: 18/20