England 2014: Day 6 – St. Paul’s, Duck & Waffle, and More

Hi folks!

Today, we’re heading to The City, where we got to see St. Paul’s Cathedral, Leadenhall Market, and dine at Duck & Waffle, before dropping by the Museum of London, then finally the Tate Britain right next to our hotel.

St. Paul's, featuring the London Eye in the distance. (Nikon S9700)
St. Paul’s, featuring the London Eye in the distance. (Nikon S9700)

In spite of some threatening grey clouds, the weather continued to hold wonderfully for us, and by some miracle would continue to do so as our vacation carried on. Let’s go, shall we? 

day6-aThe City of London, also known as The Square Mile, is the financial district of London today. It’s also – technically – London as it originally was! It was on this site that Londinium was born, a Roman settlement in the 1st Century AD. From there, urbanization grew exponentially, and today, Greater London as we know it is actually composed of 32 boroughs, with The City at its heart.

I continued to be in love with the ease and convenience of the London Underground. It really and truly puts the Vancouver SkyTrain to shame! Quite a few lines had interruptions and service issues here and there but I never encountered any great difficulty…other than being caught on an older line with no airconditioning in the midst of rush hour. Gross, and somehow grosser than the SkyTrain because you’re 15 floors underground. It’s also much better regulated and monitored, unlike the SkyTrain that ends up having delays every few hours due to issues that could have been quite easily prevented with better management.

We emerged at St. Paul’s and I was beyond happy to have the chance to meet up with Tracey – my dear dear Tracey whom I hadn’t seen since the Lagos left Vancouver. However brief this encounter was, it was still a delight — I love Trace to bits. It was wonderful to see you, Tracey! 🙂

The walk from the tube station to St. Paul’s was practically non-existent. Finally walking up to it was mindblowing, too – if a cathedral can be as grand and imposing and impressive today, just imagine what people back in Christopher Wren’s day thought about it! St. Paul’s Cathedral is a marvel to behold, both outside and in, and I absolutely encourage everyone to pop by if they have the chance. It costs a pretty penny, especially now that it’s no longer part of the London Pass (honestly, they replaced it with the ArcelorMittal Orbit? Dumb. Duuuuuumb.) but if you’re interested in history and architecture, it’s an absolute must-see. Unfortunately, they disallow you from taking any photographs inside, so you’ll just have to go see it for yourself, I suppose!

The West Entrance. (Nikon S9700)
The West Entrance. (Nikon S9700)

From here, we walked over to One New Change, a mall across from the cathedral. I got the idea thanks to Amanda from Kevin and Amanda doing it herself on her trip with her husband, and we were very much rewarded with these views, including my first photo above:

Juxtaposition: Old vs New. (iPhone 5)
Juxtaposition: Old vs New. (iPhone 5)

There was next to no one up at the roof… though apparently it is packed to the gills at night because of the bar there — Karrie mentioned they went in the evening and there was a 2 hour line just to get up the escalator?! Luckily, there were just a  few other tourists there, and we could take our sweet time!

Another shot. (Nikon S9700)
Another shot. (Nikon S9700)
In the distance. (Nikon S9700)
The Shard in the distance. Those clouds were epic. (Nikon S9700)

From ONC, we wandered over to Leadenhall Marketa 19th century covered market which is now quite popular because Harry Potter and Hagrid walked through it on their way to Diagon Alley in the first HP film. Though the current structure dates to 1881, there has been a market in that spot since the 14th century. It is, give or take, in the centre of Roman London, and would have thus been a thriving hub for trade and sale.

Leadenhall, with cyclist. (Nikon S9700)
Leadenhall, with cyclist. (Nikon S9700)
Leadenhall, with Jen. (Nikon S9700)
Leadenhall, with Jen. (Nikon S9700)

Alas, we couldn’t get the best angles, as this usually empty middle area was filled with tables of different vendors, or converted into more dining area, as pictured. Speaking of dining, at this point, we were definitely getting peckish! Fortunately for us, we were due for a lunch reservation at Duck and Wafflea fantastic restaurant at the 40th floor of Heron Tower. We were there to meet my Tita Lynn and her daughter (my godsister) Frankie for a long overdue catch up lunch, and ended up being there nearly three hours!

Let’s delve into some deliciousness, shall we?

Lovely ladies @ Duck & Waffle. (Nikon S9700)
Lovely ladies @ Duck & Waffle. (Nikon S9700)

Tita Lynn and my parents have been great friends since the early ’80s; my parents are Frankie (on right)’s godparents! It was great to see them again – we hadn’t seen them since August 2008…

This was us back in August 2008... I don't even have words.
This was us back in August 2008… I don’t even have words.

The Duck & Waffle menu is designed to have several plates on the table to share rather than individual meals, so we ordered a variety of things to try while catching up on what’s been happening with us for the last several years! (All photos from D&W are with the Nikon S9700).

The menu. (Nikon S9700)
The menu. (Nikon S9700)

We started with the requisite house bread (which, honestly, I think the plain one ought to be complimentary and not £6 if you order another £100 of food…). It was warm and a good start to the meal, which was quickly followed by the following:

Dorset Scallop
apple, elderflower, cornish caviar, dill
Fried Prawns peperonata, lemon aioli, radish, watercress
Fried Prawns
peperonata, lemon aioli, radish, watercress

The scallops were divine. If you filled that plate up I would have been perfectly happy with just that as my whole meal. Light, fresh, and the perfect balance with the salty caviar and the fruity, floral elderflower and apple slices. I wish the dill were a little less spriggy and more finely distributed, but I get that aesthetically it is more pleasing than little tines of dill.

The prawns were yummy – perfectly cooked, and delicious with the aioli and peperonata, but it wasn’t anything revelatory or life-changing, and the watercress seemed like a bit of an afterthought to green up a fried plate. Well-executed for what it is, but I wouldn’t order it again (not because it’s bad, but because I’d rather have something more unique and different).

Potato & Leek Gratin Cornish blue cream, pickled walnuts & celery
Potato & Leek Gratin
Cornish blue cream, pickled walnuts & celery
Duck & Waffle crispy leg confit, fried duck egg, mustard maple syrup
Duck & Waffle
crispy leg confit, fried duck egg, mustard maple syrup

If you’re a fan of blue cheese, you will love that gratin. The dish was rich and creamy without being too heavy, and it’s most definitely a share plate (it’s good to have other things to cut through the richness)!

The duck and waffle had to be ordered since we were, after all, at Duck & Waffle! I must say, the confit leg was a bit dry (sadface) but the skin was crisp and the egg, waffle, and mustard maple syrup were delicious.

This next course, however, was the revelatory course – the pièce de résistance of this whole meal.

500g Longhorn Rib Eye from Thirsk roast grelot onions, heritage radish, marmite hollandaise
500g Longhorn Rib Eye from Thirsk
roast grelot onions, heritage radish, marmite hollandaise

Oh my word. Oh my word. This could very well be the single best ribeye steak I’ve ever had in the history of my existence. Tender, moist, perfectly seared on the outside. Having the bone marrow was a rich little treat as well, and it was a great plate to share amongst the four of us to all have pieces of it. My mouth is watering just staring at this photo and I yearn to have it again soon. Edited to add: The Marmite hollandaise was LIFECHANGING. My sister wasn’t fond of it, but I couldn’t get enough of it! It was amazing on the steak, and heck, I put some of it on the duck confit leg, dipped a prawn into it, I could have it on toast! Delicious and so different from the normal condiments, which was fantastic.

Torrejas maple caramel apples, cinnamon ice cream
maple caramel apples, cinnamon ice cream

Torrejas is a Cuban dessert akin to French Toast. Egg bread or brioche is used as a base, and the bread is fried in oil, not butter. It is then smothered in a delectable sugar cinnamon syrup before serving. The Duck & Waffle version is delicious (and is meant for two, so don’t worry, I shared with Frankie)! Apples and cinnamon are a classic combination, and everything in this adorable cast iron skillet came together delectably. Crunchy apple, crisp-on-the-outside-chewy-on-the-inside bread, cool ice cream… the marriage of flavours was well balanced and the dessert was filling without being heavy (it’s definitely for two people – I couldn’t have finished that solo).

All in all, our meal was great and I most certainly want to return again, because there’s so much more to try (foie gras crème brûlée with butter roasted lobster????? YES PLEASE). The service was pleasant and quick, and it’s amazing to think that these guys run that ship 24/7 (and according to Frankie, it’s even busier at 3am)! The views were a breathtaking bonus, though Tita Lynn wasn’t exactly fond of the view on the way down in the elevator…

Walking by the Gherkin post-lunch. (iPhone 5)
Walking by the Gherkin post-lunch. (iPhone 5)

After parting ways with the Samsons, my sister and I made our way to the Museum of LondonOne of London’s lesser known museums, this one, too, is FREE and documents the history of London specifically, from Roman times to the present. The way the museum is laid out is chronologically, which is really cool. This October, a Sherlock Holmes exhibition is starting up — so it’s certainly worth a visit!

One of Selfridges' two antique 1920s elevators. These Art Deco elevators were famous and even had glamorous ladies whose full time job was operating it up and down!
One of Selfridges’ two antique 1920s elevators, now at the Museum of London’s 20th Century exhibit. These Art Deco elevators were famous and even had glamorous ladies whose full time job was operating it up and down! (iPhone 5)

I actually was so absorbed in the museum that I didn’t take very many photos of it at all!

Fortunately, I caught a snap of this…

The 2012 London Olympic Cauldron!
The 2012 London Olympic Cauldron! (iPhone 5)
So incredibly cool to be this close to it. (iPhone 5)
So incredible to be this close to it. The lighting is terrible, and I couldn’t stay to take another since the museum was closing and we had to leave… but cool nonetheless. (iPhone 5)

Before calling it a day, my sister and I made our way to the Tate Britainwhich is open until 10pm on the first Friday of every other month. This was great, because we were able to visit it without having it eating into another day where we were doing something else. There was much going on – music, slam poetry, drinks and merriment. It was such a different atmosphere to the usual daytime crowd – less kids, for starters. I was fortunate enough that we went to the Turner gallery and we had it practically to ourselves.

Serenity. (iPhone 5)
Serenity. (iPhone 5)

It was a quiet, sweet end to our Friday… and with another jam-packed week to go in London, it was good that we got a nice rest!

In my next post, I get to visit Leavesden Studios’ Warner Bros. Studio Tour (HARRY POTTER!!!), and spend the day with Karrie! STAY TUNED! 🙂

Follow Along on my England 2014 Journey!

DAY 1: Travel & Settling In Bath 
DAY 2: Cheddar, Glastonbury, & Wells with Mad Max Tours
DAY 3: Salisbury, Bath, & Razorcat Tours
DAY 4: Touring Oxford with Oxford City Walk
DAY 5: The Houses of Parliament & Winchester
DAY 5: FOOD – Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
DAY 6: St. Paul’s Cathedral, Leadenhall Market, Duck & Waffle & more! (You’re on this page right now!)

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