Hong Kong’s highly anticipated outpost of London’s Duck & Waffle restaurant may not have the sky-high views or 24/7 opening hours of its British counterpart, but that hasn't dampened the hype for fans waiting eagerly to experience one of the UK’s most popular restaurants -- and have a taste of its signature namesake dish.
With the restaurant set to officially open this week following a friends and family session over the weekend, we slipped behind the hoarding for an exclusive first taste of the menu, surrounded by an army of waiters who seemed to be bracing themselves for the coming onslaught of eager diners (it’s been reported that the restaurant in London serves nearly 20,000 people and approximately 8,000 orders of its signature dish a month).
While the flagship restaurant is perched 40 stories above ground in London’s tallest building -- framed by glass windows on all sides and accessed via a vertigo-inducing glass elevator -- Hong Kong’s Duck & Waffle has its two feet planted firmly on the ground, sensibly situated on the 1st floor of Central’s busiest shopping centre.
Nonetheless, the space is as impressive and stylish as its counterpart across the pond. Designed by award-winning architecture firm CetraRuddy, the open layout of the restaurant is spacious and inviting, with one side framed by windows overlooking the harbour, and a spacious kitchen bathed in a bold red colour on one end of the dining room. Across the restaurant sits a floating island bar, with seating consisting of a mix of circular booths, four-tops and larger tables for groups. Blocky black-and-white patterned booths evoke a sense of mod art, as do the giant duck sculptures, rendered in grassy green with beaks protruding defiantly into the air.
[caption id="attachment_703519" align="alignnone" width="806"] Dine under the watchful eyes of the restaurant's resident ducks.[/caption]
The menu has been curated for Hong Kong by Executive Chef Daniel Barbosa, who’s risen steadily in the ranks since joining Duck & Waffle London in 2013. His one-page menu includes a fair amount of dishes from the original restaurant, with a few Hong Kong-exclusives inspired by the city’s access to regional produce. Having visited the restaurant in the UK, we were pleased to find the quality up to par in the signature dishes -- despite ingredients such as Irish crab and Scottish cod having taken a cross-continental flight.
The menu is broken up into six sections -- “Snacks”, “Breads”, “Raw/Nearly Raw”, “Small Plates”, “Large Plates/To Share” and “Sides” -- although most of the dishes are conducive to sharing. Portions are generous, and Duck & Waffle fans will find comfort in the familiar options, starting with the BBQ spiced pigs ears that arrive in a brown paper bag (HK$90) and the bacon-wrapped dates (HK$90) from the snacks selection. For carb lovers, there are six different breads to choose from; we licked our fingers from the cornbread (HK$60), studded with jalapeños and smothered in maple and whipped harissa butter.
[caption id="attachment_703524" align="alignnone" width="806"] Irish crab is dotted with oyster mayo and paired with crisp nori puffs.[/caption]
Raw items are an absolute highlight of the menu. Hokkaido diver scallops (HK$120) are elevated with a well-seasoned truffle ponzu, while rough-chopped beef tartare boasts a salty streak of Marmite (the UK’s analogue to Vegemite) that surprisingly tastes much better than it sounds. The Irish Crab (HK$120), however, was by far our favourite, a generous platter of sweet shredded crab meat dotted with oyster mayonnaise to reinforce the flavour of the sea, and paired with puffy nori crisps for scooping.
From the Small Plates selection, diners can segue into the main platters with foie gras creme brûlée paired with puffed pork skin brioche (HK$120), pollock ‘meatballs’ with lobster cream (HK$110), and grilled octopus with chorizo and capers (HK$120). The charred broccoli (HK$100) is a hearty dish hiding in vegetable form, with charred stalks crowned by a poached egg blanketed in a tangy Caesar hollandaise sauce; while the spiced ox cheek doughnut (HK$100, one of the restaurant’s best-sellers) is a carbon copy of the one we tried in the UK -- the fluffy, bread-like doughnut splitting open to reveal a filling of fall-apart-tender braised ox cheek.
From the large plates, the restaurant’s namesake lives up to its reputation: A crispy-fried confit duck leg arrives atop two fluffy triangles, crowned with a perfect fried egg. On the side is a pitcher of mustard-seed-infused maple syrup that benefits from a floral hit of rosemary and is, thankfully, not overpoweringly sweet. The cod is a Scottish variety and was cooked to a tee, swimming in a butter-laced broth bobbing with lava beans, baby artichokes, and melted lardo for a buttery mouthfeel.
[caption id="attachment_703526" align="alignnone" width="806"] Seeking dessert? Try the miso tart with a buttery and slightly salty crumb.[/caption]
Other mains to try include lamb chops with smoky eggplant, pea & mint ravioli, grilled grain-fed beef, and roast chicken -- with all but the last two large-format meats hovering around the reasonable HK$250 mark. For dessert, diners can sat their sweet tooth with miso tarts and a warm chocolate pudding paired unconventionally with a scoop of black sesame ice cream. For drinks, quench your thirst with a concise list of cocktails -- the Duck & Stormy (HK$148) is a popular order to pair with the restaurant's signature dish, featuring dark rum infused with toasted coconut and squeezed with lime.
Duck & Waffle opens Mon–Sun from 8am until late. Shop 1081, Podium Level 1, IFC Mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, Hong Kong, +852 2267 6338
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