One year ago yesterday, John and I eloped to Wales with only our photographer and her fiance as witnesses. As we said our vows in the Conwy city hall and took pictures later on the Llandudno pier, I remember thinking that it was the happiest day of my life.
To celebrate this occasion, John took me out for brunch on Sunday at a surprise location - I couldn't have imagined that we'd be heading to Duck & Waffle, on the 40th floor of Heron Tower. Having only been to the Shard a few weeks ago, we'd been spoiled by views of London from high up, and yesterday was no exception, particularly as the weather was just. So. Dang. Nice.
Unfortunately for me, I hadn't quite realized that the elevator (unlike the Shard's) was glass paneled, so I shut my eyes for most of the journey. I regretted this, as John said that on the way up, London suddenly "opened up" like a pop-up book. I did try to concentrate on the way down, but was too busy taking selfies to notice again. See how much you miss when you're attached to your phone?
I don't know how to say this without sounding obnoxious, but I think we might have had the best table in the restaurant: set off to one corner, we the advantage of floor to ceiling windows both immediately behind and in front of us, as the Gherkin cast a shadow to my right.
Although the day before had been overcast and grey, Sunday couldn't have been more different. In fact, the sun was shining so brightly, we both wore our sunnies for the duration of brunch and I think I might have gotten heatstroke, after it felt like the sun was boring a hole into my back. It felt awful to complain about such an amazing spot plus such gorgeous weather, so I kept my mouth shut until we picked up the bill and left.
As the gift for the first year is paper, I presented, with a flourish, John tickets to see The Book of Mormon in November. He gave me a "joke" present (very prettily wrapped, however) of a ceramic notepad, so that we "can leave notes for each other". Err ... okay.
The menu at Duck & Waffle is creative, exciting, and fun. You know when you're jumping-up-and-down excited to try something? I felt like that about mostly everything on the menu (except for the foie gras brulee). The American in me ordered the toasted PBJ, served on brioche, with banana slices sandwiched in the middle and accompanied by fresh berries and dab of cream. John was slightly more adventurous in ordering the spicy ox cheek doughnut, which, with a tangy sauce and smoky filling, proved to be a real taste sensation (John dubbed the combination of flavors a "Western version of a Chinese char siu bao, or BBQ pork bun", which wasn't far off!).
Of course, we just had to order the duck and waffle to share, which consisted of a crispy leg confit perched atop a waffle with a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. Sounds so wrong, but tasted so right.
So, I loved a lot of things about Duck & Waffle, but namely these few things:
1) Our bill (including drinks, though John had two and I just had water) came to £45. That's about as much as it costs to have brunch anywhere decent in London.
2) It's apparently open 24 hours a day. Yes, that's right. If you're jet lagged or experiencing a bout of insomnia, you can rock up at 3 a.m. to slurp down half a dozen Carlingford rock oysters or BBQ-spiced crispy pigs' ears while taking in the incredible night view of London below you.
3) The prices are accessible. Although some of the main courses are understandably on the pricey side (they're really unique and the quality is fresh), you could also simply opt for a greek yogurt with homemade granola and compote for a mere £5.50. Or Belgian waffles for £8.50. And you still enjoy the lovely views and cool-factor that the restaurant has to offer.
Beware of the cocktail menu though - they sound divine, but a G&T will set you back a cool £14.00, so my advice would be to go for the food menu, as that's the real gem of the establishment anyway.
As we enjoyed our duck and waffle at such glorious heights, John and I both thought about how lucky we were to share such experiences together, but more importantly, how lucky we are to be able to look back one day (at a time when eating duck and waffle at such glorious heights will seem like a whole lifetime ago) and say, with some certainty, that we "did" London well.