The Duke of Cambridge
So let's switch off all the lights
And light up all the Luckies
Crankin' up the afterglow
The gastropub has reached some sort of plateau. It’s now possible to eat impeccably sourced, well-cooked food in which ever part of London you hang-out. Sure, there is room for improvement - the selection of wines by the glass is dire in most places. But on the other hand there’s usually at least one decent real ale on offer which is, after all, what pubs are about.
So things are, if not perfect, quite rosy in the garden. So it came as somewhat of a shock when I recently revisited the The Duke of Cambridge in Islington. I hadn't been for a few years but what I remembered was a nice light room, a menu board choc full of interesting dishes. The execution was a bit rustic, the prices steepish but the portions were generous and the (good) beer was from Pitfield. What a shame then that in the intervening years it's not even kept up with the nouvelle vague of gastros but slipped towards the back of the pack.
The main room now seems very gloomy owing to the inexplicable presence of awnings outside. The dining area has been shunted away to a light but claustrophobic conservatory at the rear - presumably to increase drinking space in the main room.
If there was ever a time when you looked at a chalk board menu and really didn't want anything on it this was that time. I think my dining companions Anny and Gavin felt the same way. We ordered without enthusiasm. This might not have been so bad if the food was up to snuff - unfortunately it was pretty lousy. It reminded me of food you might have rustled up when you were a student or doing your first DP but sans any of the usual enthusiasm.
A small lump of terrine had a nice texture and tasted ok but had oxidised to give it an unappealing look not helped by the half-toasted bread and a quartered dill pickle and some chives. The other dishes looked terrible and apparently didn’t taste any better.
Our mains lowered the bar further: a scant bowlful of tasteless moules hiding a salty broth with some of those hateful fat chips on the side. Hervé, would be turning in his grave. Gavin's Smoked Haddock Fishcake had so little of the titular ingredient I imagined that the kitchen had merely wafted the fillets in the general direction of the veg which made up the greater part of these nasty pats. He left most of it without any comment from the staff. Go as, they say, figure. We were so despondent at this point that radical action was called for. Er…that would be the bill. The evening was rescued somewhat by us decamping to the ever-reliable Vinoteca where we had some nice puds and matching stickies.
So, if you're walking past the DoC and feel hungry I’d recommend you keep going and trying somewhere like The Drapers Arms or The Albion on the other side of Upper Street, although you won’t escape the dreaded fat chip. Oh and by the way the Duke of Cambridge is all Organic.