Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Quacky Birthday!

I celebrated my birthday earlier this month, and kicked off the festivities in a fittingly fancy fashion, with lunch at Duck and Waffle.


Duck and Waffle is located in the Heron Tower - the same building as it's sister restaurant, Sushi Samba, where I went for my birthday dinner last year, and for my wedding anniversary this year.  You may have guessed that I thoroughly enjoy this venue...and who could blame me, with this view?


Dining in the sky, with London sprawled out below and views as far as the eye can see, simply does not lose it's novelty on me!


Duck and Waffle is located on the floor above Sushi Samba, and I had been wanting to see what they had to offer for a very long time now.  Let me tell you, I wasn't disappointed...

A date with bacon wrapped dates - it was definitely love at first bite...

We started with the bacon wrapped dates which are stuffed with a smokey linguiça sausage and manchego cheese filling, and paired with a tangy mustard dressing.  This dish was pretty much our idea of heaven on a plate.  Each bite was so plump and juicy, and the mixture of sweet and savoury is a combination that I really enjoy.  Basically, these bacon wrapped dates were perfection.

Next up we had the scallop with apple, elderflower, caviar and dill.  On first inspection, we were a little underwhelmed with this one.  I was expecting whole plump scallops - but I probably should have realised otherwise, given that the description was 'scallop' (singular).

The scallops were a little underwhelming, but they weren't a dill breaker... 

Thin slices of scallop were placed on top of apple slices, and the combination of textures was surprisingly pleasant.  The flavours were exceptionally well balanced, and the sweetness of the apple was really heightened by the seafood in a fresh and delicate way.  I liked this one, and thought it was a clever dish, but on the whole, it was probably the least impressive from our selection.

We also opted for the crispy pigs ears, which came in a paper bag, and provided a little something to crunch on, between dishes.

They didn't make a pig's ear of this! 

Given my penchant for interesting-sounding, experimental dishes, I could not pass up the spicy ox cheek doughnut with apricot jam and smoked paprika sugar.

A savoury doughnut?  The cheek of it!

The fluffy exterior and meaty interior reminded me a little of dim sum bbq pork buns.  I liked the accompanying dipping sauce, and overall the dish worked, but despite it's grand appearance, it was not my favourite out of our choices.  Simply put, although there were some great flavours in this dish, it did not make me sigh in the way that those stuffed dates did!

Next up was perhaps my favourite dish...how have I lived so long without foie gras crème brûlée in my life?

A tap with the spoon resulted in the perfect crack in the top layer... 

The foie gras had the creamy, light texture of crème brûlée with a caramelized, crunchy layer on top.  It was served with butter roasted lobster and toasted brioche.  Oh my word, this is one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten!!!

We ended our savoury dishes with the pièce de résistance and signature dish: the duck and waffle. Crispy leg confit served with a fried duck egg, mustard maple syrup and of course, a waffle.


This delicious flavour extravaganza was the bomb. In fact it's so good, they named their restaurant after it. Here, have a closer look...

Holy duck, this was a tasty plate of food...

By this point, I was well and truly stuffed, but Loverboy insisted that we must have dessert!  We opted for the Baked Alaska - a dessert that I knew of, but had never actually tried before.  Whilst we were waiting for that, they brought out a little birthday surprise...

Birthday girl full of delicious food and champagne! 

Our final dish was served, and we were impressed!  After we oohed and ahhed a bit, we busted that sucker open and inside the squishy, chewy, gooey meringue, was a solid ball of ice cream.  It was accompanied by poached peaches, and was so yummy that I wondered why I had waited so long to try this wondrous creation.


We had a wonderful, leisurely lunch, enjoying the taste sensations, taking in the view, and pointing out buildings in the distance. Our table was in a prime spot by the window, with a view that looked down on the Gherkin.


We both left feeling full and happy. I couldn't have asked for a better start to my birthday weekend, it was a real treat!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Now that's what I call music! 1980-1999

There have been so many birthdays lately (including my own!) and we were invited to a particularly fun, joint birthday party, at the end of July. The theme was 1980s and 1990s, and everyone was strongly encouraged to participate in fancy dress costume, choosing any icons from that time period.


Well, as you can imagine, it didn't take much encouragement for loverboy and I to get into character, as we love a good fancy dress party!

Can you guess who we went as....?


No, it's not Slash and Cyndi Lauper...guess again....

MJ and Madge were in the house for one night only!

If you guessed Michael Jackson and Madonna, then you are correct!

There were so many brilliant costumes, including Poison Ivy, Thelma and Louise, Yoko Ono, Laura Palmer, John McEnroe, Morrissey and Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes, to name just a few.

We made quite a racket...

The birthday girls were almost unrecognisable as Eddie and Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous...

Happy birthday, sweetie, darling! 

Of course, Michael Jackson had the moves to accompany the style. There was moonwalking, the kick, the lean....and the Electric Slide...Shamon!

Loverboy getting down to the Electric Slide...

The drinks were flowing, and the ladies were rowing...

 Oops Up Side Your Head!

There were glow sticks...

Big fish, little fish, cardboard box! 

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, it was nostalgic hearing so many songs from our youth, and we might have gotten and little carried away in our excitement...

Kate Bush brings out the abstract dance expression in everyone...

But we all made sure to sing happy birthday to the birthday girls...and then eat the giant cake!

 Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake!

By the end of the night, beauty marks were smeared, and wigs were ditched...


That was definitely a party to remember, and it was so in vogue!

Wheels on fire, rolling down the roaaaaaaaaaaaad....

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Kenwood House

We are very lucky to have so many beautiful parks in London, and I make sure to visit them as often as possible during the summer.

A few weekends ago, we headed over to Hampstead Heath, for a sunny Sunday spent exploring Kenwood House.

Taking a stroll around the lake by Kenwood House.

Kenwood House is an English Heritage building, and is a former stately home, steeped in history, and full of paintings, beautifully ornate furniture and impressive fireplaces.

This fancy bench is looking a little ruff around the edges...

There is a room that houses jewellery - everything from bejewelled belt buckles, to brooches, to rhinestone hair combs, to pendants with delicate portraits of family members painted onto them.  

I loved this heart-shaped lock and key brooch!

There is an abundance of art work in the house, many of them portraits, by artists such as Rembrandt, Turner and Van Dyke, and they cover nearly every inch of every wall.

I like to call this work of art: The Thinker...

Personally, one of the things I find most interesting when visiting English Heritage buildings, is the furniture.  Even though nobody lives there any more, you sill feel as though you are having a nosey around someone's home, because the furniture makes it less like a museum, and more like a place of residence.  My favourite piece of furniture was a sofa with cloven hooves!  It was designed by Robert Adam, the very same Scottish architect who designed Kenwood House itself.  This particular sofa used to live in the White House, but was returned to Kenwood House by President Kennedy, when Jackie O wanted to redecorate (clearly, she was not a fan of the hooves). 

Keep those hooves off  the furniture!

Kenwood House has been in the press a lot lately, as there is a new film out called Belle, which is based on Dido Elizabeth Belle, who lived at Kenwood House for 30 years during the 18th Century.  As such, there is also a small exhibition in one of the rooms, featuring costumes from the movie and a copy of a painting which features Dido Belle and her cousin, Elizabeth Murray.

I kind of wanted to swap dresses...

Believed to be Britain's first black aristocrat, Dido was born the illegitimate, mixed race daughter to naval captain, John Lindsay and her enslaved mother Maria Belle.  Dido was brought to live with Lindsay's extended family in England, and was raised by the Earl of Mansfield and his wife at Kenwood House.  

 Spot the odd one out...

Having explored the whole building, I can safely say that without a doubt, my favourite room in Kenwood House is the library...

Beautiful in baby blue and baby pink! 

Afterwards, we walked around the Heath a bit, before heading down the road to the Spaniards Inn.  If you've never been to this pub, then I recommend it as a year-round great choice in London!  During the winter, it's a cozy place where you can tuck yourselves away in an alcove by a fireplace.  In the summer, however, there's only one option:  the garden.

Eagerly awaiting our lunch...

The beer garden is huge and pretty, and the perfect place to sip a nice glass of chilled wine, accompanied by a house-made scotch egg!

If it's good enough for Keats and Dickens, then it's good enough for us!

A lovely day out, and as entrance to Kenwood House is free, it's a great budget-friendly option for an excursion in London.  Just don't forget to stop off for a drink at the local boozer afterwards!