When you ask adults if they celebrate birthdays, they usually fall into one of three categories. There are those who loathe them; they ignore the existence of such a thing because that would remind them that yes, they are indeed getting older. For some people, myself included, it’s pretty much just another day… of course it’s nice to do something to mark the occasion, a couple of presents wouldn’t be so bad either but if nothing happens then oh well, it’s not the end of the world. Then we have the ones who truly love birthdays; they mark every year with a hiss and a roar because it’s the day you came into the world for goodness sake, if that’s not worth a toast or three, what else is?
Frankly, I’d love to go all out on my big day but the universe conspired against me and gave me what most people would describe as a rather unfortunate birthday. It happens to be around the time when a lot of people around the world celebrate the birth of a certain well known religious figure, so it can be a little hard to compete. I do however, have friends who plan excellent birthday celebrations for each other- great presents, fancy dinners, weekend getaways… so when we got the call to be part of a surprise birthday dinner, how could I say no? It also helped that dinner was booked at Duck & Waffle; a restaurant that almost every Londoner has either eaten at or wants to eat at.
Sitting on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, Duck & Waffle is the UK’s highest restaurant so it is hardly surprising that it gets booked as much for the view as it does for the food. The menu itself is often praised and best described as eclectic and creative, but I’ve frequently wondered whether it’s actually any good or if diners are swept up in the fun and frivolity of it all to really care? So on the hottest day of the year so far, we went along to find out!
I can’t deny it, the view was stunning and so was the restaurant. The bar area is open and vibrant, the dining room has a more luxurious feel, both equally impressive with the floor to ceiling windows that showcase London in all its splendour. Once settled into our cosy booth by the window, with drinks on their way, we got ordering…
A certain someone and I love our offal so the BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears were a no brainer, followed by a couple of breads, and what I thought was the most decadent sounding dish on the menu- foie gras creme brulee.
We lightened things up briefly with an angus beef tartare and the roasted octopus with chorizo and potato before raising the cholesterol stakes with the curious spicy ox cheek doughnut and a scotch bhadji. The bhadji was my least enjoyed dish of the night, it looked a mess and greasy aftertaste it left in my mouth did nothing to improve my opinion. But the doughnut was a different matter; this was the kind of quirky but tasty dish I was expecting. If anyone else found the combination of rich ox cheek encased in a doughnut covered with sugar a bit bizarre they kept it fairly quiet as we happily demolished a couple of them.
Does anyone come to Duck & Waffle and not order its namesake dish? It has to be done on the first visit but I don’t think I’d need it again, a little too dry then a little too sweet with the maple syrup, this was not the dish for me. However I would order the whole roasted Shropshire chicken again. I usually think that ordering the chicken dish at a restaurant is akin to having your choice of flavours in an Italian gelataria and choosing vanilla, safe and boring, but on this occasion I’m happy to eat my words. It was moist, tender and just plain delicious.
We were all ready to waddle home at this point but some of us (yes, I was one of them) could not resist a dessert; the birthday boy got his turkish delight and the rest of us took bites out of a pistachio and dark chocolate macaroon sandwich, a satisfying end to celebrations.
Dining at Duck & Waffle is an experience; the atmosphere, the service, the location, it was all worthy of the hype but for me, the food played second fiddle. We were happily fed and watered, but what I’ll remember most is sitting with some of my nearest and dearest, celebrating a birthday, and looking out across a gloriously lit London!
So tell me… did you think the atmosphere outshone the food or did you love them both?