On a dark night in Montmartre several years ago, Mr Bite and I stumbled upon a restaurant with a menu devoted to duck. It was an icy night with a sky that could have been painted by Van Gogh. Earlier we had watched the snowfall over Paris from the vantage point of Sacre Coeur. This little neighbourhood eatery was the perfect end to a perfect day.
The newly opened Duck and Waffle in St James's Centre also has a focus on duck in the form of its signature dish and namesake, but the setting is very different. This is a flashy, London, chain restaurant.
I visit with my foodie friends aka the ‘Scone Divas’ and as we sink into the D&W experience I ask for their collective feedback.
E describes the welcome: “ a big installation of stacked red waffle logos with a colourful duck on top greets you at the entrance. Once inside, the space is open plan but soft lines define differing spaces which gives a dynamic feel. The palette is yellow, red and vibrant. It feels like stepping into a fancy London venue.”
The staff take us to our table and make sure we are seated comfortably. We order drinks and scrutinise the menu. It is divided into sections: snacks, breads, raw, small plates, large plates and designed, in line with current trends, for sharing.
For me however, sharing implies abundance but at D&W the dishes are pricey which makes your feel you are sharing through financial necessity. In addition K comments: “I'm not sure I'm a fan of the current trend for tapas, small plates dining experience. It feels disjointed and often one of your party will have finished their dish before the other has even been served/ started.”
F orders a Bacon-Wrapped Date with chorizo, Manchego, mustard. The dates are £4 each and one is presented on a garish porcelain object d'art - nouvelle cuisine style. Remind me what decade we are in.
K and I both order Foie Gras Crème Brûlée on a pork crackling & marmalade, brioche. The rich pâté is whipped silky, the speckled crackling on the sweet-glazed bun lends texture. It’s a winner. N and I share two Cheesy Polenta Croquettes with truffle mayo. They are sparing at £4 each and nowhere near luscious enough. The Blue Cheese Croquettes at Black Grape kick them into touch.
E and K share the signature dish (£24). E notes it is disappointing: “a gastro remake of a pancake with crispy bacon and maple syrup but for a higher price; a waffle topped with crispy leg confit and fried duck egg accompanied by maple syrup with added sesame seeds. Very American and with no sensational flavours. “
I lived in Glasgow for over a decade and my heart still aches for ‘the dear green place’. Make no mistake I love the city and its people but when it comes to our two central belt cities it is a case of ‘vive la difference”. Our party conclude that this show-off’s natural habitat is out west. How can I put this delicately, *coughs*, “It’s just not Edinburgh”.
F concludes that D&W is a “glamorous venue with attentive service but the food doesn’t live up to expectations. Overpriced and expensive.”
K finds the service intrusive. The bill should come with a side of smelling salts.
The night was fit for ducks with heavy rain falling outside but this soulless restaurant with its Americana-influenced menu wasn’t.
My advice would be to go to a local, neighbourhood restaurant like the one Mr B and I visited in Montmartre. If it's canard you crave, try l’escargot, La P’tite Folie or La Garrigue. (S. Wilson)
Duck & Waffle Edinburgh - St James Quarter
400-402 St James Crescent, Edinburgh, EH1 3AE - +441312022700