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Duck & Waffle: We get an exclusive first look at the St James Quarter restaurant and try their signature dish

This is their first branch outside of London

Published: January 11, 2023
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Just when you think Edinburgh’s St James Quarter is at capacity, another shop or restaurant appears.

The latest is Duck & Waffle, which is officially scheduled to open on February 1. I’m completely ignorant, when it comes to this small all-day dining chain, whose original branch is in London. 

I thought the name might be a metaphor for getting down low and chatting. But, no, it’s literal. Duck and waffle is their signature dish.

I’ll be sampling it on a first look at this venue. First, I have to find my way in, since it’s not yet open. I try the door beside the ground floor Japanese restaurant, Itsu, but it’s shut.

Instead, they sneak me in on the fourth floor, where there will also soon be a branch of their sister venue, SushiSamba, which has branches in London, New York and Dubai and serves a mash-up of Brazilian and Japanese dishes.

As I enter the venue, the owner of both of these chains and Samba Brands Management, Shimon Bokovza, breezes out. He was born in Israel and, interestingly, launched the first ever ski resort there in the Seventies.

Although he’s clocking off, I’m being shown round by operations manager, Wayne Feddon. According to him, they didn’t look at any other properties for their first location outside London.

“Our founder Shimon has a relationship with the landlord and it was perfect,” says Feddon.

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The lights are bright when I visit, since they’re working hard to complete the project. When it’s open, it’ll be low lit, with a playlist chosen by Bokovza, who loves music, Feddon says. If it’s anything like what I’m hearing today, except soul and disco.

I guess the interior might be classed as maximalist.

It’s a social media influencer’s dream, with selfie opportunities everywhere. These include the mirrored tunnel that you pass through if you’ve come up in the lift and the multi-coloured graffiti wall, which, on my visit, is being completed by artist Amy Ireland. In this lobby, there’s even a Moroccan-style tiled floor that features tiny abstract duck feet prints.

The private dining area, The Nest, has a Twenties vibe. Hopefully, there won’t be any guests with feather allergies, as it’s covered by a canopy that’s fringed with Swan Lake-esque white plumes. All of the copper edged glass tables, each topped by a gold lamp, also contain tiny bits of down.

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At the other end of the space is the copper bar, which is freestanding.

It’s surrounded by seating areas and some of their whiskies will be displayed inside copper potholes on the walls. They’re currently developing an exclusive take on an eggnog, which will feature a locally made vodka, and a Scotch heavy Porridge Punch. Among other cocktail classics, they’ll have the classic Bone Marrow Cosmopolitan from the original branch.

The floors across the space are on different levels, and there are various zoned seating areas.

However, the cooking arrangement takes an open kitchen to the next level. There are preparation ‘pods’ - one for dessert, another for salads, a main one, the grill and a bread station.

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“It’s sort of a stage, where everybody’s watching the chefs”, says Feddon. The guests are allowed and even encouraged to chat.

I’m meeting Duck & Waffle London-based culinary director, Daniel Barbosa, and executive chef Lucia Gregusova, who has just moved from nearby steak restaurant, Hawksmoor. They’re going to demonstrate a few of their dishes, some of which will be exclusive to the Capital.

“Edinburgh is one of the most charming cities I’ve been to,” says Barbosa. “I came across beautiful produce and that has influenced the way the menu was designed. All of our beef, cheese, and shellfish are from Scotland – the quality of the Scottish products is second to none. These preferred purveyors range from Campbell & Sons Quality Meat, Central Produce, and I.J. Mellis cheesemongers, to George Anderson & Sons, David Lowrie Fish Merchants, and Ochil Foods.”

Barbosa and Gregusova start dishing up.

First, I try their scallop small plate, which also involves jalapenos and apples, before we get onto the serious stuff. 

There’s a huge foie gras crème brûlée, and Barbosa toasts the lid with a huge blowtorch. It’s designed for sharing, but I get one to myself, though I don’t manage much of the lush and hugely rich creation, which comes with a pork scratching topped brioche roll. I also sample the pork belly, topped with more puffy rinds, and a crispy-skinned lamb and dukkah dish with yoghurt.

There’s also an exclusive Scottish dish - the deep fried haggis bar. Barbosa had done his research, when it came to this option, and tried one of our Mars bar equivalents, which he describes as “comforting”. His take is huge, with a middle of ox cheek, haggis and melted duck fat caramel, as well as a side jug of Bovril.

I wish I’d done more exercise earlier in the day.

This place’s restaurant manager, Alex Winter, who has previously worked at Edinburgh’s Tattu and Bread Street Brasserie, demonstrates the ideal way to eat their signature duck and waffle.

This is how Bokovza does it, apparently.

You slide the fried duck egg off the top of the waffle, then take the bone out of the confit duck leg by twiddling it at either end. “Then hash it up”, says Winter, before putting the egg back on, without breaking the yolk and pouring the mustard maple syrup over the top.

Apparently, they’ve sold two million platefuls of this, and they often serve it at 4am at their 24/7 London outpost.

It is total hangover food. Salty and sweet. There are desserts too, but I think I’ve stuffed my beak quite enough for one night.

Reservations are open at Duck & Waffle Edinburgh, see www.duckandwaffle.com

The Nest
Duck and waffle

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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