The influence of the US, particularly New York, on London’s bar and restaurant scene is evident everywhere you look. From Dalston’s grungy dive bars, to Shoreditch’s speakeasy cocktail clubs and Soho’s diners, Americana has quietly and successfully seeped its way into our drinking and eating conscious. However a new, and perhaps surprising, influence is that flash upstart of the East – Hong Kong.
Not convinced? Looking beyond the transplanted Aqua bar in Oxford Circus, you've probably noticed the skyscraper boom that has swept London in the last few years. And with those rooftops have come bars and restaurants, heavily influenced by the East.
The most interesting, and probably the best of these newcomers, is the Duck & Waffle on Bishopsgate. Located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower, it is reputedly the highest restaurant in Europe (a feat that I imagine will be eclipsed by the monstrosity that is the Shard, but an elegant boast nevertheless).
However, you cannot begin to talk about the D&W without referencing the views. They are breath-taking. To the south you have stunning views of Gherkin, NatWest Tower and the Thames. Add on the panoramic view to the rear taking in the very best of London’s East, North and West, and you have a tailor-made tourist trap. Except that D&W is far more then that. First, unlike the Shard, they don't charge you to visit the top – in fact, assuming there is room, they encourage it. And better still, when you arrive, the service experience is as good as you would get in any top London restaurant (and perhaps better).
The menu is Asian influenced, albeit with a thoroughly British soul. Sharing platters (remember when there were only tapas?) include foe gras, meatballs, and a few vegetarian dishes such as artichokes. All very tasty, although a tad expensive at £8 to £13 a platter. The large plates are similarly priced, with a Cornish fish stew or a whole roasted chicken setting you back £32 each. The 300g cut of Angus sirloin suddenly looks a bargain at £28. But you can't go into the D&W without trying their signature dish of crispy leg confit, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup with a side of waffle. This mix of sweet and sour, reminiscent of an American diner breakfast, is the sort of dish I usually avoid. However, what made all of these ingredients work so well together was the savoury sharpness introduced by the mustard. The dish is unusual and heavenly.
The wine selection is very New World and fairly priced – if you think from £6.50-£14 is a fair price for a glass of wine. But just when you feel like grumbling about the prices you remember where you are. It's ambiance and stunning views. I have a feeling that the Asian influence on London's social scene is set to continue.