Duck & Waffle

Thursday, 17 July 2014



Duck & Waffle. Just in a name you have a dynamite combination and it's making me hungry. This restaurant prides itself on it's signature dish; does the name give it away? Expectations are pretty high my friend. What's also high is this restaurant, sitting pretty on the 40th floor of Heron tower on Bishopsgate - your ears pop on the way up, and your stomach does acrobatics at the rapid descent in the glass elevator. It makes for stunning views though, the vastness of the London metropolis reduced to moving specks below.


At the end of your night, bid (a reluctant) farewell to the dirty kebab and say hello to Duck + Waffle. Don't mind if I do...

To put it lightly, Duck & Waffle has been doing a booming trade since its opening in 2012. C and I were fortunate enough to get a 9pm dinner reservation (practically bedtime). As soon as you walk through the door, it's clear that no expense has been spared for the space. It's a pretty gorgeous restaurant, playing hand in hand with the commanding panorama out of those floor to ceiling windows. From each table you have full view into the open kitchen from where you can ogle duck and waffles aplenty. A rippling yellow panelled ceiling gives the impression that you're in motion, a nod to Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. 

Interiors by New York architectural firm CetraRuddy. Swish and swish, not a bad looking place! Credit: Duck & Waffle

Executive chef Daniel Doherty and his team are in charge of a kitchen that operates 24/7, no joke. It is open at all hours of the night, making it ideal for a late night stop-off (won't be needing a reservation then!). The menu sees influences from European cooking but using local British ingredients. A huge selection of small plates like roasted octopus or braised pig cheeks are ideal to share. Or you can go all out and order the larger dishes like grilled lobster or whole roasted sea bass (umm, yum?!).


Half a dozen fine de claire oysters with shallot vinaigrette. These beauties were so delicious (and cost a mint). So fresh that I didn't even bother with the vinaigrette in the end - so indulgent

Steaming hot: Essex beets, goat's curd, hazelnuts, capers, sherry vinegar. Can I just say that this was an amazing salad. Yes, quite homestyle and comforting but it just made me smile. Beetroot and goat's cheese together is pretty much failsafe. Happiness in a mouthful (or several)

Duck & waffle: crispy leg confit, fried duck egg, mustard maple syrup i.e. what we'd all been waiting for. Perhaps not the most elegantly plated dish I've ever seen but it does the job. I must say that the confit duck was on the dryer side and the waffle a bit doughy *sad face*. The dressing on the other hand was lovely (the dish needed the moisture!). Maybe everyone had talked this dish up and up and up and my expectations were too high? Anyway, it fell short of the mark for me. Eaten together on a good night though and I think it would have been smashing

Duck & Waffle certainly has its fair share of wow factor. Set in such a magnificent spot, you could almost distract yourself from the shortfalls in the kitchen. But regardless of what I say you can be assured to have a fantastic time - day, night or in the wee hours of the morning (hit with the sudden realisation that you've never felt more hungry than you do now, or have an intense craving for duck + waffle). The intentions are there; wholesome British food cooked with minimal fuss to please the masses. It's certainly worth a try, if only to order that one dish ;)


The tallest restaurant and bar in the UK (even dwarfing the gherkin!) = bragging rights Credit: Duck & Waffle

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
Duck & Waffle on Urbanspoon

The Governor's Table

Saturday, 12 July 2014


As if straight from the pages of a glossy interiors magazine, The Governor's Table is a haven for design buffs. Come with a keen eye or better still, an empty stomach and you'll be rewarded handsomely. TGT is the revamped diner of the Museum of Sydney, oft overlooked since the flashy refurbishment of the Museum of Contemporary Art smack bang on Sydney Harbour. The smaller venue and  more intimate dining space are just a few of its many charms.

One of the dishes of the night, a rather smashing mushroom gnocchi with pesto

Taking cues from the sandstone original, design mob Inochi DesignLife have transformed the space into a fully functional bar and restaurant that stays open all day. With splashes of Scandinavian influence in the mismatched timber chairs, the space speaks to its roots with liberal use stone and wood. A sixteen seat French oak dining table is the restaurant's centrepiece adorned with native Australian blooms. It fits like a glove, to say the least.

The happy juxtaposition of old and new makes for a pretty gorgeous dining room and bar Source: The Governor's Table

Behind the stoves the talent isn't really lacking either, Tim Ryan (ex-Aria and Chiswick) has honed a menu that is rather on point. With plates that are easy to share, Ryan's modern interpretation of classic flavours add another element of interest. The menu is wide ranging from ricotta hotcakes (for a cheeky breakfast) to formal banquet style dining (for groups over 10), you barely need an excuse to come here. On top of that, the drinks list is not too shabby, with aptly named cocktails like 'Waratah' and 'The Governor's Rum' and draught beers from Sydney Brewery on tap. 

To kick the night off: duck liver parfait, beetroot pickle (left) and grilled king prawns, salsa verde and aioli (right). The parfait was slightly on the more grainy side which is a great shame because the beets were gorgeously prepared. The grilled prawns run the race of the entrées, being perfectly grilled and charry (so moorish).  Aïoli features in almost every bar snack and entrée here, and with good reason - it's pretty damn well amazing

Wild mushroom, taleggio & truffle arancini, pecorino. These arancini were some of the best I've eaten of late, losing all the glugginess that dominates other versions. You can't taste the truffle but it hardly matters

Another star of the show: snow crab, roast tomatoes, saffron rouille, semolina noodles. A preview photograph off the website was all it took and I was convinced. A winning combination from the start, the fine threads of crab were mixed well with the noodles and a very light dressing to let the ingredients do all the work. Simple, really!

Braised beef short rib, parsnip purée, gentlemen's relish. A bit of mystery surrounds what exactly 'gentlemen's relish' is - a few drinks later and it might be a euphemism. The beef itself was a bit unevenly cooked being chewy in some parts but then medium-rare in others. The parsnip chips on the other hand practically flew off the plate

Mamma mia, that gnocchi was good. Potato gnocchi, slippery jacks, rocket sauce, pecorino. Cooked in water, then finished off in a pan with butter (well, one could only presume). Slightly crispy but soft inside, it makes for a pretty fine dish. The rocket pesto and mushies were just an added bonus

Ice cream & dulce de leche sandwich. A little morsel of sweetness to round off the meal. As you can well imagine, it was rather sweet on sweet (but we asked for it). It's no Reuben Hills' 'Doggs breakfast' but you know, a decent effort

The Governor's Table dishes out in spades is what the CBD has been crying out for; a stylish café/restaurant for the hungry masses. This is modern Australian food done really well, without the hugely inflated price tag that you'll find about two blocks over (read: Circular Quay or Bridge Lane). Already boasting indoor/outdoor dining, TGT is on the verge of opening up its second stage with many more tables. I actually quite like the cosy version 1.0 but what can you do. These are exciting times for the MoS. With these sorts of quality venues sprouting up (The Mint's Bistro is yet another), the future's looking bright for us Sydneysiders. 

Okay, so it's no Vogue Living spread but I'm paying homage nonetheless. Get a bunch of friends or family together and you could have yourselves a cracking dinner party, and no washing up to boot! Win-win.

Thanks for reading!
xGourmand
The Governor's Table Bar & Dining on Urbanspoon

St John

Saturday, 5 July 2014



London has fought many battles to get itself on the culinary map. With a cuisine built on stodgy suppers (with good reason, mind you as it's perpetually FREEZING) and the classic meat and three veg, there's not too much room for development. Enter, Fergus Henderson and his St John branded empire. A man who practically invented nose-to-tail eating and elevating offal to fine dining; for twenty years he has been redefining British cuisine for the discerning diner.


This utilitarian all-white restaurant runs like a well oiled machine, honed over the past two decades Credit: St John Group

Flush on the doorstep of Smithfield market, the original St John Bar and Restaurant stands as a bit of an icon in the area, having been operating since 1994 (positively eons by today's standards). Two years ago, I went away from St John absolutely beaming. Not only was the food exciting but it also shone a light on much neglected ingredients. The magic obviously worked on me because I left telling everyone, "You have to go, it's the best!" Today's little revisit was to reaffirm my beliefs about the place because when done right, offal can actually taste really, really good. Be adventurous and give it a go!


The unmistakeable no. 26 St. John Street, like a charismatic old friend

St John is certainly a modest space, based in a former smokehouse. The beauty of it is that there is something there for everyone, at the ground level is a casual bar space with beers on tap and some ripping bar snacks (crispy pigs ears anybody?) but the upstairs mezzanine is where the action's at (the formal dining room). A zen oasis decked in white-on-white. The reputation of this restaurant isn't for nothing, the service is efficient with professional, knowledgeable staff. 

Welsh rarebit with Worcestershire sauce. An absolute workhorse of British cuisine. This rather wholesome toasty was easily a meal on its own. Grilled to golden perfection this dish is a must

The menu is rather lengthy despite the rather minimalist descriptions like "Pigeon & Beetroot" (sounds delicious already!). You'd be a fool not to tackle a dish featuring offal or game. The old British classics are in the mix with some more left of centre dishes. It's a difficult game narrowing it down, too often my eyes are bigger than my stomach. St John also serve their house made sourdough which is the bomb (technical term) and offer a selection of their own St John vintages of wine (so sold). I tried the lovely Edelzwicker from Alsace (doesn't that sound fancy).

Crispy pig skin salad with watercress, green beans. Looking deceptively simple, this dish was full of surprises - the salty pop of capers, the textural pork and zippy dressing tying it all together. Completely delicious

The dishes come to the table in quick succession and a rather small table is jammed from corner to corner with white plates. I ended up nesting my glass of white on the windowsill (if you don't mind...).  Where the presentation leaves much to be desired it would simply make no sense to be mucking about and jazzing up offal. The flavours do ALL the talking, there's absolutely no need for bells and whistles. What you see is what you get and I respect that boldness.

Blood cake and fried eggs. This is precisely what you got! The black pud was rich and crumbly, possibly the entire year's worth of iron and protein right there

A little experiment in sweetbreads: (left) lamb sweetbreads turnip & bacon circa 2012 and (right) lamb sweetbreads, broad beans and bacon (2014). I obviously couldn't get enough and ordered the dish again. The sweetbreads have a rather unusual texture (an unexpected creaminess), but they are cooked so well. A gold standard in terms of sweetbreads!

DOLCE - a mash up of 2012/2014

Bitter chocolate crème & prunes (left) and lemon sorbet & vodka (right). This pair of rather adult desserts from 2012 were absolute dynamite (and not just from the post-shot burny feeling)
It doesn't get much more old skool than this: eccles cake and Lancaster cheese circa '12

The New Guard, 2014: baked cheesecake with rum-soaked raisins (gosh, they were ALCOHOLIC) and rhubarb sorbet & vodka (gosh that was ALCOHOLIC). The cheesecake was utterly moorish, I wasn't missing a biscuity base at all. The sorbet was more of boozy slushie in the end = AMAZING

At St John you'll find nose-to-tail eating at its best and most original. Fergus Henderson's St John brand is a sure fire winner and comforting at any time of year. Twenty years later with a Michelin star in tow, it is still in fine form and highly recommended to one and all. If you can't find the time to dine in or can't get a table (likely), be sure to duck over to the bakery and purchase some of that amazing sourdough for home (they sell halves as well which is rather nifty). Totally worth the trip, and the food baby.

Right before it got really busy. This photograph was really pushing the limits of my point-and-shoot camera but hey, it worked!

Thanks for reading this rather epic edition!
xGourmand
St John on Urbanspoon
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