Monday, April 27, 2015

London Dining

On the way back from Dubai, we're stopping over in London for a week. One "free" stop is allowed on the frequent flyer tickets we have....after three weeks in the middle east, I'll be looking forward to a change of diet. And so, I'm researching restaurants within walking distance of our hotel. 

Who could resist Bubbledogs with such a great logo?

Bubbledogs is a champagne bar which serves hot dogs. About 15 kinds of hot dogs on the menu - some of them a bit of a stretch such as the macaroni and cheese dog, or the Chippy dog made of battered sausage and scraps. The champagne comes from small wineries. They have 12 - 15 on the list and they're priced from 6 - 11.50 P per glass.

Hot dog with egg and caviar.

The Kitchen Table back of Bubbledogs

Perhaps we'll make a reservation at the Kitchen Table located behind Bubbledogs which seats 12 - 14 people and serves a 14-course meal for 88 P. Too much to eat, but we'll try if it looks like fun. The courses vary nightly. Today's offerings are : oyster, chicken, scallop, monkfish, sole, truffle, asparagus, duck, goat, rhubarb, orange, caramel.


The Duck and Waffle is the kind of place we usually avoid. The highest restaurant in London, it's on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower - actually, it's the highest restaurant in the UK. But, the food is well rated on various sites around the internet. Some of the items that interested me are:

  • Barbecue spiced pig ears
  • Spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam and smoked paprika sugar
  • Bacon wrapped dates with manchego cheese and watercress salad
  • Duck and Waffle (namesake dish): Crispy leg confit, fried duck egg, mustard maple syrup
  • Roasted octopus with chorizo, potato, lemon, capers
  • Fois Gras creme brulee with roasted lobster and toasted brioche
  • Grilled asparagus with smoked buttermilk curd, dandelion and pickled walnuts

But then I read this restaurant review from Jay Rayner at the London Times and re-thought going there. Sure enjoyed the review though.

Heron Tower, 110 Bishopsgate, London EC2 (020 3640 7310). Meal for two, including wine and service, £110
Duck and Waffle, on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower in the City of London, was begging me to hate it. There were the usual stupidities of booking – email address, please; you can only have the table for as long as we permit; give us your first name, the bank account number of your third cousin – and the less-common stupidities of there being no sign for the place at ground level. There was the self-satisfied glimmer of the meeters and greeters and the waiter who insisted on explaining the menu – if a menu needs explaining something has gone wrong. And yet… and yet… Duck and Waffle is like that irritating bloke you see propping up the bar in his flash suit, with his £1,000 shoes and over-whitened teeth who seems horribly pleased with himself until you get talking to him and discover he's actually quite nice and has lots to say for himself.
It sits above the latest outpost of a chain called Sushisamba which I do actually hate, and I haven't even eaten there. I don't need to. It's a fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian food, which is the sort of thing that makes me want to punch people, regardless of the interplay of the various national groups over the centuries. Even the name is a culinary non sequitur. Sushi is all "precise" and "delicate", samba is all "look at my arse" and "don't you want to do me".
I stood for a few minutes in the dining room. It's full of the sort of people who hate sushi and really want a grilled-chicken salad. It has an open terrace which will only be usable for four weeks of the year and which is surrounded by an easily leapable glass barrier – risky, given the way things have been in the City recently. Then again, a cull of bankers isn't such a bad idea.
Anyway, don't go there. It only encourages them. Instead go upstairs to the quieter Duck & Waffle with its bejewelled views over London like a shameless plunge of shiny moisturised cleavage and the menu of drunk's food. The title dish is two fluffy waffles with a hunk of crisp-skinned duck confit, a fried duck egg and a pitcher of spiced maple syrup. It's the sort of thing you'd only want to eat if you were so bladdered you felt the need to keep clicking your tongue against the roof of your mouth to see if your brain could register the movement. They also sell strips of crispy pig ear seasoned with sugar, salt and a few spices. It makes them taste like Frazzles, which is obviously genius. They come in brown paper bags. We ordered a second bag and only didn't order a third out of shame.
There was a smoked haddock scotch egg with a curried mayonnaise which was a cute riff on kedgeree, and knobbly limbs of grilled octopus with bits of chorizo and caper. There was a bowl of mussels and clams in a broth to be spilt down your pink TM Lewin shirt and a vibrant, zippy tomato salad with the word "heritage" in the title, which I'll forgive because the ingredients were so bang on. Best of all was a tiny burger of Herdwick mutton, with that funky meat-on-the-turn flavour you get from big-bollocked animals who have lived on a windblown hillside. Desserts are cakey things with ice cream, which is more drunk food. Save for a whole roast chicken, lobster or sea bream, everything costs about a tenner, which amounts to value for the food and the view.
Which makes the sharp knee-to–the-groin of the wine list so shocking. As is traditional I ordered the second-cheapest wine on the list. It was an AlbariƱo at £30. They'd run out. Big surprise given that most people would have to be on Bob Diamond's severance payment to afford the rest. I went for the cheapest at £28. It tasted sordid. They intend to be open 24 hours a day so you can come to eat good-value food and be ripped off on the wine at any time, while watching London sleep. It's something every city needs.


  1. Anonymous12:51 AM

    What a crack up this critique is great. You should go and try the pigs ears in the paper bag. Beth C

  2. All the food sounds awful but I loved the review by Jay Rayner. I can't wait for your review!