Autumn Menu at the Duke of Hamilton, New End
- Credit: Piotrowski Photo
Gorgeous seasonal fare and great wines are worth checking out at this renowned real ale pub, named after an ill-fated duelling aristocrat
It's lucky for us that Hampstead-raised brothers Ben and Ed Robson are passionate about local pubs.
While running The Horseshoe in Heath Street, they helped to kickstart Jasper Cuppaidge's Camden Town brewing dynasty.
Then two years ago, they breathed new life into long vacant St John's Wood boozer the Clifton with a contemporary makeover that didn't spoil the atmosphere.
And a year ago, with childhood friend Adam Gostyn they rescued the Duke of Hamilton from the same fate as its shuttered neighbour the Old White Bear. Both are listed as community assets - in fact The Duke's ex owner Steve Coxshall unilaterally barred the 800-strong Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum for protecting it.
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But the Robson brothers aren't going to let this renowned real ale pub go the way of Jacks Straw's Castle and other vanished NW3 watering holes any time soon. Back in the 60s, the 300-year-old hostelry, named after an ill-fated duelling Duke, was the haunt of legendary boozers Oliver Reed, Peter O'Toole and Richard Burton.
On our night we thought we spotted Jesus, not the son of God, but local actor Robert Powell. Thankfully though, there was no hellraising as we enjoyed a quiet mid-week supper.
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The Duke has had a lick of paint (green/grey not too alarming) there are chalk boards, wooden tables, an old pub sign and a welcome overhaul of the wine selection, supplemented by exotic gins and well kept ales.
The 40-seat downstairs Jazz club brings in punters for regular nights, and the weekends are busy with a growing reputation for excellent Sunday roasts and a decent kids' menu.
The chef makes much of trusted suppliers and seasonal fare - catering to changing tastes as the nights draw in.
Thus a burrata salad has been swapped for baked chorizo, eggs and sauteed potato, and smoked salmon for a delicate, fresh hunk of smoked haddock, a perfectly poached egg, wilted spinach, and parmesan cream sauce.
At £7.50 it was good-value, only lacking a disc of sourdough to soak up all those lovely eggy juices. My partner dug into wild mushrooms on toast with thyme - and it was very good, nothing fancy, well cooked, and delicious.
Mains include a luscious baked cauliflower cheese, but this carnivore couldn't resist the ribsticking slab of slow-cooked brisket in an unctuous puddle of sauce with a rich buttery cheesy mash (unloosen those stays) and nicely done greens. The turnips were surplus to this £16 feast. (I'm not a fan)
My partner enjoyed a beautifully hung, correctly-cooked rump steak - from trusted meat supplier HG Walker. At £22.50 with a properly peppery sauce, super crisp fries and a well judged salad of watercress and parmesan, it proved the Duke can duke it out with other gastropubs and win. Desserts at £6 included a plum crumble and baked figs. The chocolate tart was marmite - not literally, but instead of a luxurious melting triangle the rather solid, dry nut-flecked vegan, gluten free offer did little for me. My partner however loved the dark choc and tangy blackcurrant sauce combo. Why not judge for yourself?
The Duke boasts a carefully selected wine list by Alliance Wine.
On my visit a Viognier for £5.80 and a Carmenere at £6.30 were both excellent wines by the glass.
And you can sample a further six at a special pairing night on November 26. The Fine Wine and Food Pairing evening includes a glass of Champagne, three reds, and three whites, (a Sancerre, Chablis Premier Cru and a Puligny Montrachet) with seven small plates such as scallop and oyster mushroom, butter poached lobster, duck liver pate, and venison loin, all for a reasonable £43.71
From November 16-24 the Duke's jazz club is a partner venue for the London Jazz Festival and is hosting nightly gigs by the likes of the Luiz Morais band and George Kelly. hampsteadjazzclub.com