So I got thrown in the deep end when I started law school last week (for anyone who doesn't know, I'm doing the GDL this year!) and have already disappeared under a mountain of books and prep work. The summer's already a distant dream - it's felt particularly chilly these last few mornings - but the memory of the delicious dinner I had at Duck & Waffle to celebrate Alex's birthday remains fresh in my mind.
But hold on, let's backtrack a little to the morning. A's birthday started as all good birthdays should: with generous brunches at Curators Coffee. I really liked this place - it's bright and airy with great food and interesting modern art on the walls.
Next was a thought-provoking wander around the Barbican Centre and its summer exhibition (told you this was ages ago!) - a 'happening' that had taken over several portions of the space, from an immersive experience in the dark with lasers and a crunchy texture underfoot, to a luminous yurt out on the tiles overlooking the lake. Later I realised that we'd actually spent some of A's last birthday in the Barbican as well (visiting the Museum of London). An inadvertent tradition has been established!
I always love visiting the Barbican as I spent seven (mostly) happy years at the school opposite the Centre. The sound of those splashing fountains never fails to bring back memories...c
We spent the rest of our daylight hours settling into the M by Montcalm near Old Street, where I'd booked a night as a present for Al - chosen because A never fails to express his astonishment at the architectural illusion the hotel presents as you drive past it. We had a swim in the beautiful pool, (which we had all to ourselves!) got slightly over-excited about our room, which featured such modern niceties as remote-controlled curtains, remote-controlled lights and a Nespresso machine, and watched the sun go down. Later we wandered down to Tonic & Remedy, the hotel bar, for some excellent cocktails, before walking over to the Heron Tower.
We got into the glass elevator and whizzed up 40 floors to the restaurant (the highest in London, apparently), the City sparkling below us as it geared up for Saturday night. Duck & Waffle makes the most of its excellent views with its full-length glass windows - not a restaurant for the acrophobics among us! Fortunately, neither of us have a fear of heights, and I felt extremely lucky indeed when we were shown to a table in the corner, a position allowing both of us skyline views.
You're not strictly allowed to take pictures in Duck & Waffle, but as I saw a few cameras around I decided to be very sneaky and whip out my own to snap a few photos of the food when I thought people weren't looking. Sadly, most of my pictures ended up slightly blurred thanks to my not-so-covert operations, so I apologise in advance! We started with the classic BBQ-spiced crispy pig's ears in a brown paper bag. Salty with a generous kick of umami, I found these addictive.
Pollock meatballs buried under a layer of breadcrumbs. Alex absolutely loved these.
Alex is totally a bread man - as in, when we go out for dinner he'll always order a bread dish, which I usually complain about as I find them so boring! This time, I wasn't complaining - this 'nduja and gruyère bread was freshly baked, pillowy soft and darn delicious.
Less of a hit was the foie gras crème brûlée. I really wanted to like this one and ordered it because Alex is usually such a classic crème brûlée fan - but unfortunately for both of us, the dish was way too rich, the caramelised topping and foie gras flavour combining in an overwhelming fashion. I've heard that some people love this dish, but on this occasion it just wasn't for me. All credit to the restaurant, though - our wonderful waitress noticed that we hadn't really touched this one and took it off our bill immediately without even being asked (not that I would have anyway!) Incredibly good service.
And finally, the eponymous dish: a savoury confit duck leg perched on top of the fluffiest waffle I've ever had, topped with a fried duck egg, sweetened with lashings of mustard maple syrup. I can see why so many people rave about this - it's truly special.
A truly magical evening, where we were made to feel special with the attentive service, amazing views and delicious food. I know Alex really enjoyed it, and I'd personally definitely recommend Duck & Waffle as a place to celebrate a birthday or occasion. The restaurant is one of those legendary beasts, open 24 hours. Just imagine seeing the sunrise from this place (check out Jaime's post on a 6AM breakfast complete with scarlet-tinged skies!) Duck & Waffle, I'll definitely be back soon.
If you're interested, you can see what we did for A's 24th here! Scary how time flies...