by Sarah Royce-Greensill, The Telegraph, July 20, 2017
The team at Duck & Waffle could be forgiven for resting on their laurels when it comes to cocktails. Their customers are generally so delighted to have made it past the surly door staff 40 floors below and are so busy taking selfies in front of the magnificent London skyscape that they could mix up a bog-standard martini and be done with it. Thankfully, the bar staff – led by tattooed Rich Woods – are far from workshy, and the ever-changing, evermore inventive cocktail list is testament to their quest for perfection.
The latest list, Origins, takes the premise of its predecessor – to source all ingredients from within one square mile of the Heron Tower – and pushes it one step further. Each drink is made with one core ingredient, with multiple parts of said foodstuff treated in a different way to create a unique single-origin spin on a classic cocktail.
On the face of it, a cocktail made entirely of olives, avocado or red pepper sounded fairly unappealing. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Cast from your mind ideas of vodka-spiked vegetable smoothies: the Avocado looks like a glass of champagne into which someone has plopped a whole avocado stone. Sweet and buttery, it had a strangely familiar, slightly medicinal taste that I couldn’t put my finger on, which was odd because I’ve never knowingly drunk rum shaken with liqueur and bitters made from avocado stone and skin before.
The Tomato was an ideal aperitif: I expected a Bloody Mary by another name, but it turned out to be a fresh, fizzy, herbal twist on a gimlet, made with distilled green tomato gin and blanched tomato-skin cordial. In keeping with the bar’s no-waste ethos, it comes garnished with cherry tomato stalks that would otherwise be discarded.
The list continues to surprise and delight. The alco-pop sounding Strawberry was more like a dessert wine, served straight up in a wine glass, in which the sweetness of the strawberry is offset by the bitter notes of its stalk. A fan of espresso martinis, I gravitated towards the Coffee but again all was not as it seemed: described by Rich as a “no-Tiki Pina Colada”, it’s a tropical-tasting blend of roasted coffee-bean Jack Daniels (again a by-product from the restaurant) with coconut shell liqueur and exotic fruit concentrate.
If this all sounds terribly contrived, rest assured all the effort goes on behind-the-scenes: there’s nothing fussy or theatrical about the drinks or their presentation. Simply served and minimally garnished, they let the flavours speak for themselves. It’s in line with the bar itself, which is a stylish but far more relaxed environment than the pulsing Sushisamba downstairs. With Instagrammable tiled floors, faux-graffitied walls and chandeliers made from recycled bottles, my date declared it “just the right amount of hipster”.
Tempted by the eponymous dish, we made moves for the restaurant itself, but not before Rich insisted on “one for the road”. He’d saved the best for last. The Lime, comprising leaf, husk and juice, is a fluffy, frothy and sweetly sour, like a citrus sorbet – the perfect palette-cleanser before dinner. The Coconut meanwhile, a tropical riff on an Old Fashioned, was introduced with the question “do you like Bounty?”. If the answer is yes, you’re in for a treat – if not, there’s plenty more to savour along with those views.
110 Bishopsgate, London EC2N 4AY, duckandwaffle.com