If the Duck & Waffle were at street level, it would be a very good, informal restaurant with a quirky and eclectic menu and unstuffy professional service.
To find a venue of such quality occupying a prime location 40 floors up, atop the Heron Tower -- on the edge of London’s City financial district -- is a cause for celebration.
You might expect to be charged an arm-and-a-leg after making it past the elegantly frocked bouncerettes at the entrance, and hopping on board the express elevator, which disgorges you into the arms of more greeters.
It’s a pleasure to find that the snacks are about four pounds ($6.45), most small plates seven pounds or less and many of the large dishes cost less than 15 pounds. The other good sign, as you take in the spectacular views, is that chef Daniel Doherty is almost always there at the front of the open kitchen.
I have eaten at Duck & Waffle several times over the past couple of months and I wouldn’t have been back if I didn’t like the food and the view. The shocker is the wine list. It’s among the least appealing I have encountered in a good restaurant: expensive, with a few unpleasant options if you drop below 40 pounds.
The menu is thematically heterogeneous, which roughly translates as a mixed bag. If you are light of appetite, you might choose the scallop, served with apple, black truffle and lime, atop a slab of Himalayan salt. It looks pretty and is also functional, as you can rub salt in your wounds after picking a wine.
There are also native oysters, or you might enjoy yellowfin tuna with watermelon, balsamic and basil.
(The restaurant is the sibling of Sushisamba, two floors down. Both belong to Samba Brands Management, which operates Sushisamba in New York, Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas.)
Most dishes are very big on flavor, from the barbecue-spiced crispy pig ears, through the bacon-wrapped dates (Linguica sausage, with a dandelion salad) through to my favorite: Herdwick mutton slider, with harissa and charred-tomato jam. If you are feeling porky, there’s also thinly sliced pig’s ear with olive oil and Amalfi lemon.
It’s rich and hearty fare, very much of its time and place in that the dishes are good for autumn and this sort of food -- big flavors, small portions -- is currently popular in London. Duck & Waffle holds its own against its earthbound rivals and punches above its weight in terms of consistency and professionalism for a restaurant with a view.
That’s mainly down to Doherty -- formerly of the Old Brewery at the Royal Naval College in Greenwich -- and restaurant manager, Gavin McGowan Madoo, a veteran of Bar Boulud.
The menu can be confusing first time round. Some portions are small and others are large. The five pre-dessert sections -- Snacks & Breads; Raw; Small Plates; Brick Oven; For the Table -- are the culinary equivalent of a dodgy sat-nav for trying to plot your way through a meal. It’s worth the trip.
The Bloomberg Questions
Cost? About 30 pounds a head for food.
Sound level? About 75 decibels.
Inside tip? Leave time for a visit to the bar.
Special feature? The view.
Will I be back? Yes.
Date place? Yes.
What the Stars Mean: **** Incomparable food, service, ambience *** First-class of its kind. ** Good, reliable. * Fair. (No stars) Poor.
Duck & Waffle is at 40th Floor, Heron Tower, London, EC2N 4AY. Information: +44-20-3640-7310 or http://duckandwaffle.com/
Sound-Level Chart (in decibels): 65-70: Office noise. 70-75: Starbucks. 75-80: London street. 80-85: Alarm clock at closest range. 85-90: Passing bus. 85-95: Tube train.
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include Martin Gayford on art, Warwick Thompson on London stage and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.