Sunday, 2 October 2016

Sweet and Savoury Breakfast

Oh so good, but definitely calorific -- the signature duck and waffle dish
Duck and Waffle is a well-known restaurant in London -- for its views from the 40th floor of Heron Tower which make it the tallest dining spot in the city, and for its food -- indulgent dishes that are available 24 hours a day.

That's right. Any time of day.

It's been open for four years and its fame has spread to Hong Kong, where a number of foodies have made the pilgrimage to the restaurant and enjoyed the many dishes there including the signature duck and waffle.

It entails a buttermilk waffle as the base, a duck leg confit on top, followed by a fried sunny-side up duck egg. It comes with Canadian maple syrup (hurrah!), seasoned with spices and mustard seeds.

A dramatic skyline that brightened up later in the morning
The combination of savoury and sweet works so well, the tenderness of the duck contrasts with the crunchiness of the waffle that has that comfort food taste, combined with texture from the whole mustard seeds and of course the yolk oozing from the egg that binds everything together.

The dish is so popular in London  that the restaurant serves 300 to 400 plates of duck and waffle per day. That's a lot of duck legs...

Duck and Waffle just wrapped up a week-long residency today at Ozone in the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong; it seemed appropriate that the restaurant be situated in the tallest one in the city.

The main crew were flown over here, including group executive chef Daniel Doherty and executive chef Tom Cenci, and Ozone, which usually has a Star Wars futuristic kind of vibe was different, with proper wooden tables and chairs set up and staff wearing Duck and Waffle T-shirts with dark jeans. They must have appreciated looking casual for the week.

Duck egg en cocotte with Gruyere cheese and truffle shavings
Their biggest logistical challenge was recreating the 24-hour service of the London one by having Ozone open from noon on Saturday all the way to Sunday until 5pm.

A few foodie friends and I were worried it would be very full in the evening so we thought we'd go early in the morning for breakfast. At first they suggested 7am which seemed to too early and then settled for an hour later.

I don't normally wake up that early, but this was something not to miss -- particularly since I don't think I'll be going to London anytime soon.

When we got to Ozone we were surprised to find hardly anyone was there, but then again 8am was quite early. It's also interesting to note that the bar and restaurant isn't usually open that early either -- the brunch usually starts at noon.

Dark clouds threatened to rain, but somehow they decided to disperse and we had blue skies to enjoy.

The service staff had just changed shifts, though some chefs had worked all night but were game to keep going for another few hours.

The gorgeous English cherries waffles with yoghurt ice cream
The menu for "brunch" was tempting and hard to decide what we wanted to eat, but in the end we ordered several items to try, some to share.

First up the bacon-wrapped dates (HK$45 each) were so good. Again the play on savoury and sweet was a perfect combination here -- if you didn't read the menu you wouldn't have known you were biting in to a large date, which wasn't saccharine sweet, just a bit, and quite filling.

I then had the duck egg en cocotte (HK$165), a mini cast iron frying pan with very meaty wild mushroom slices with creamy Gryuere cheese topped with tiny truffle shavings and of course the duck egg that wasn't completely baked through so some of the yolk oozed out. It was great with the slice of sourdough rye toast.

An intriguing dish was the duck congee (HK$195) that we thought was a new one for Hong Kong, but we were told it's always been on the menu. It features plain congee, quite thick in a shallow plate and decorated with shredded confit duck, julienne of ginger, crushed hazelnuts, pink pickled pearl onions, spring onions and hot sauce.

We were surprised to see gweilos had successfully elevated congee to a gourmet dish! The congee was very thick, not quite creamy, but almost there, and the dish was so colourful it made me wonder why the Chinese ones look so plain.

Other egg dishes we ordered were the shakshuka (HK$160), an exotic named dish featuring eggs again in the cast iron frying pan spiced up with harissa yoghurt and mint, and Columbian eggs (HK$1450, which was basically scrambled eggs with avocado, grilled chorizo on sourdough rye toast.

Of course we had the signature duck and waffle (HK$220), and it was as billed, sinfully delicious. We can't get over how the combination of these ingredients work so well together. Match made in heaven.

For dessert, we were enticed to try all three Belgian waffle creations. Banana brulee (HK$125) featured the waffle decorated with bananas that were sliced lengthwise and had sugar sprinkled on them to have a caramelized and crunchy surface, with homemade "nutella" and a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The signature waffle is the "full Elvis" (HK$195), a decadent dessert the King would have approved of -- waffles with peanut butter, the aforementioned caramelized bananas, chantilly cream and crushed nuts, chocolate sprinkles. The only healthy parts were the decoration of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.

But in particular we all enjoyed the English cherries (HK$125), with the yoghurt ice cream topped white chocolate crumble and even yellow flower petals! Slightly tart and refreshing, a lighter option to finish the meal.

Some friends thought some of the dishes were even better than the ones they tasted in London. Quite the feat considering they are working in a tiny kitchen that is not too familiar and working overnight too.

We don't know when we'll get to Duck and Waffle in London, but when we do, we'll know what to order...