Lunch at Duck & Waffle

I have had the pleasure of eating at too many amazing places to remember. But, of the ones I do remember, it’s often a combination of fantastic food and an amazing dining experience that add-up to make it unforgettable: fresh Lobster on Hellshire Beach, Jamaica; dinner at Toronto’s CN Tower or Lightship Ten that used to be in St Katherine’s Dock; Steak at Palm West in New York; pallela in that bar in El Cotillo, Fuerteventura; or, of course, the half-day eating experience that is The Fat Duck.

Now, today’s lunch venue needs to be added to those experiences. Recently opened on the 40th floor of Heron Tower in the City, Duck & Waffle has fantastic views across East London looking out towards The Olympic Stadium and Canary Wharf and is close enough to give you the impression you are looking down onto The Swiss Re building (the Gherkin). It’s a stunning setting for lunch and, this afternoon, was not too busy so we got a prime table – looking right out East.  There aren’t really that many skyscrapers in London and even fewer restaurants with that kind of view: the only taller buildings are Canary Wharf and the Shard (and that’s not open yet).

Of course it’s not just the experience, the food has to be excellent too: and it was. The bbq-spiced crispy pig ears might not sound to your taste but were crispy, meaty and – for somebody who never adds salt to food – nicely salted. If you don’t like tomato, a plate of English-grown heritage tomatoes will make you rethink with a broad range of tastes, colours and flavours while scallop on apple with black truffle and lime was one of the most refreshing tastes I’ve ever eaten. The signature duck & waffle dish is a beautiful mixture of crispy duck and soft waffle.

It must have been good, I don’t think I’ve ever written about a restaurant here before. If you’re in London go before it becomes popular (in a couple of weeks they are about to open 24-hours) and, even if you’re not in the mood for food, try the house Manhattan, the bottled cinnamon smoke that’s a vital constituent is incredible, and you’ll need it: a stiff drink is required after the 30 second glass elevator ride up the outside of the tower.

I took a few pictures of the view (and the food) and they’re all over on Flickr (with a few on Facebook too).


It’s My Radio Station

I’ve been meaning to write something for quite a while about radio services in an age of connected devices and multiple music services. But news of Apple being awarded a patent to enable “seamlessly switching media playback between a media broadcast, such as a radio broadcast, and media from a local media library” and the subsequent Media UK discussion finally got me to start writing.

I’ve been a radio fan for most of my life but lately my love affair with the medium has turned into a marriage where we don’t speak much anymore. So much radio seems to be back-to-back music (which my phone does better, thank you) or back-to-back Big Brother chat (or back-to-back songs with Big Brother chat breaking them up) that I normally work with iTunes running. I listen at breakfast for an hour or so and that’s about it. Perhaps that’s fine with the industry, I would hope not.

I read, occasionally, an argument from radio people that the only way to compete with music services – such as Spotify or Pandora, or personal libraries like iTunes – is with the bits between the songs (the entertainment that I don’t store on my iPod). That seems a reasonable position. So, I’ve been wondering what would happen if there was a ‘mashup’ between radio (for the entertainment bits) and my music player (for the songs I really like)? The technology can support it, Apple’s patent just reminded me about it.

Simply put, my radio station would allow me to set preferences allowing me to opt-in to news (say, every hour); to add local travel news every 20 minutes (between 0700 & 0900 if there was something to report); to add sport (every 2 hours except during the Olympics when I’d change it to more often) and to add celebrity news (once per month). The rest of the time music is coming from my local music library of tunes I want (sometimes I select individual tracks or albums; sometimes I pop it onto random). The content is downloaded in the background and inserted between the songs I’m hearing. Of course I could opt-in to a bunch of other things if I wanted to (one new music track every 90 minutes; breaking F1-news as it happens; interviews with artists in my library or a ten-minute blast of a phone-in). All of these things could be surrounded by an ad break or sponsors (as they are today) but the station pays no music royalties, bandwidth costs are limited to only updating content and if the connection is down the music keeps coming.

Take it a stage further and my news comes from LBC; travel news direct from Transport for London, sport from Sky and, perhaps, a film review from 5Live. If the content is what I want, I’d choose it and hear supporting commercials (or promos, if it’s the BBC). I don’t need a presenter telling me what I just heard, my phone shows that to me quite happily so the entertainment is more than being successfully able to ‘hit the vocals’ with station name-check.

I don’t see that it would be hard for Spotify or Pandora to add these services in now (perhaps they already are and I’ve missed them) but experience with this kind of content is certainly at radio stations today (and, if we’re honest, RDS has been allowing it for years if you’re in a car and listening to your own music).

Of course, radio’s real advantage is that there’s no effort involved to turn it on and start listening; this would be an effort to set-up and configure. If I wanted live presentation then I’d still switch to radio services but, this way, I get news & entertainment on a schedule I want and it really would be a station playing today’s best music mix (just for me).




Elsewhere: New Apple Patent Could Kill Commercial Radio

Over at Media UK’s radio discussions section there’s a thread about a new patent issued to Apple that allows for “seamlessly switching media playback between a media broadcast, such as a radio broadcast, and media from a local media library”. It reminds me that I have some thoughts brewing on this (update: my thoughts are now written-up here) but this is what I added to the thread (with the typo seen at Media UK cleaned up).

An obvious use of this tech would not just be for targeted ad insertion but also for some kind of content switching when a user’s streaming connectivity drops. Using Apple’s Genius functionality & a station’s playlist, an app could store a list of station-appropriate tracks that are already on my device and seamlessly switch to them. Let the station cache a few idents in the app and I may never notice I’d lost connectivity driving through the tunnel again.

Take it a stage further; could a station save on music royalties (and the listener on bandwidth costs) if it only provided the links and all music tracks were sourced from the user’s local music library (of tracks they own)?

The future of radio is at an interesting point. Even as a self-confessed radio geek I am finding that I spend more time listening to music and entertainment services that could not traditionally be called radio. More to come on this.