DUCK & WAFFLE: An exclusive look at Edinburgh’s newest eatery

She may have loved London’s sky-high Duck & Waffle restaurant, but what did Chief Sub Rosie Morton make of Auld Reekie’s new ‘gastro diner’?

THE first time I visited London’s Duck & Waffle restaurant, it felt like a real occasion.

Certainly, the impressive 40th floor ‘gastro diner’ at 110 Bishopsgate felt a far cry from the over-priced, sticky-tabled brunch outlets often encountered in big cities. Indeed, in the original branch of Duck & Waffle, 360-degree views of London are served as a top-notch side to your breakfast, lunch, dinner, or weekend brunch.

It was, therefore, music to the ears of Edinburgh’s gastronomes when Duck & Waffle announced it would be spreading its wings by opening a branch in the Scottish capital. But Auld Reekie would have to pull out all the stops if it was to match the lofty heights of its London counterpart.

Today (1 February), the new eatery – which is located within St James Quarter shopping centre – is finally opening its doors. Here’s a sneak preview of what to expect…

Free-standing bar, shaped like a whisky still.

What is it?

For the uninitiated, Duck & Waffle is a ‘gastro diner’ that prides itself on all-day menus, paired libations, and quirky interior design. The menu was created around the brand’s namesake dish – The Duck & Waffle, with crispy leg confit, fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup on a buttermilk waffle – which has been devoured by over two million diners… And counting.

While the Edinburgh menu features many of Duck & Waffle’s signature dishes, it has also been tailored to incorporate Old Alba’s homegrown produce. Beef, cheese, and shellfish come from Scotland, with suppliers including Campbell & Sons Quality Meat, I. J. Mellis, George Anderson & Sons, David Lowrie Fish Merchants, and Ochil Foods. A few Scottish quirks have also been thrown into the mix. (That does, of course, include a fresh take of the deep-fried Mars Bar – but more on that later).

The famed ‘Duck & Waffle’ has reached Edinburgh.

What’s the vibe?

If you’re looking for maximalism, or a place to enliven your social media feed, then you’re in the right place. Indeed, there are several unapologetic pleas to Edinburgh’s Instagram influencers: the copper-toned mirror tunnel (which you pass through on the way to the terrace and lifts) and multi-coloured graffiti wall (by local artist, Amy Ireland) are selfie-opportunities-in-waiting.

Meanwhile, the main dining area has been designed by Fabled Studio who have ensured that there is a duck-themed flourish at every turn. Think egg-shaped reception desks, feather-lined tables, and gigantic waffle accessories.

The quacking quirks continue into the restaurant’s two private dining sections. ‘The Nest’ (which seats 14 guests) boasts a canopy of duck feathers, while the ten guests seated in ‘The Whisky Room’ will be dining under the watchful eye of mallards in butler attire.

And why not? Eccentric touches are to be found everywhere you look in this gorgeous, amber-toned venue, and with several open chef’s counters and a free-standing bar that is shaped like a whisky still, Duck & Waffle’s intentions are clear: this is a place for honest food, well-paired drinks, and a little theatre.

The verdict? It’s bold. It’s bonkers. And frankly, it’s brilliant.

Duck-themed flourishes at every corner…

What about the food?

During my preview, I met up with London-based culinary director, Daniel Barbosa, and executive chef, Lucia Gregusova (previously of Edinburgh’s Hawksmoor steak restaurant).

I took a pew at one of Duck & Waffle’s preparation ‘pods’, which felt akin to sitting in the front row of a theatre production. Soon, an assortment of beautiful dishes began to emerge from across the counter.

The first to appear were three Isle of Mull scallops, served in unique style with apple, jalapeño and truffled orange dressing. The restaurant’s two extraordinarily passionate sommeliers – Roberto Bravo and Michele Cossu – paired this with Philipponnat Champagne, and it seriously impressed.

What followed was a dish that was devoured with equal gluttony: a foie gras crème brûlée with pork crackling brioche. This remains a firm favourite amongst London diners, so there was little doubt in Daniel’s mind that it would also feature on Edinburgh’s menu. Unctuous and satisfying, with a sensational sweet and savoury contrast, this is a dish best shared amongst friends.

Pork belly, which had been braised for eight hours and was topped with puffed pork scratchings, followed. It was paired with an earthy Château Ormes de Pez, Saint-Estèphe, 2017. This fatty cut of meat is not one I would usually enjoy, but (to my own surprise) I would order this again in a heartbeat.

You may have gathered that calorie-counting at this venue is in vain. But putting in an extra hour in the gym is worth the effort, particularly for this next creation: the Deep-Fried Haggis Bar. Sometimes you just have to admit that you are wrong, and this is one of those (rare) occasions. I recoiled in horror at the thought of this take on a Scottish ‘delicacy’, but I’ve spent the past two weeks raving about it to friends and family. It has a layer of ox cheek, haggis, and duck fat caramel, and is without doubt worth the week of salads that followed (a bid to counteract its effect).

Finally, The Duck & Waffle. Its name is above the door for a reason. If you’re a D&W dilettante, I’d heartily recommend starting here. Crispy, sweet, salty, gooey, and satisfying in every way.

Isle of Mull scallops with apple, jalapeno and truffled orange dressing.

The verdict?

Edinburgh’s Duck & Waffle could not be better placed for a weekend rendezvous. The prices may feel steeper than some of the city’s other popular brunch/lunch spots (the Duck & Waffle dish is a hefty £24) but for a first-rate meal served with theatre, it’s worth the splurge.

To find out more or reserve a table, visit the Duck & Waffle website