Duke’s is a trendy barbecue restaurant in Hoxton, rather oddly situated on a pretty rough residential street in a former pub. It looks like the hostelry was gutted and then the restaurant was half assembled over the top, with furnishings provided by a bunch of art school drop-outs – decorations include a pram, antlers, eclectic lampshades etc. Before I talk about the food, I should note that Duke’s is the home of Beavertown craft brewery (they brew in the kitchen) which is an up and coming presence in London’s burgeoning brewing scene. I tried the Smog Rocket which is an earthy Porter with a decent kick at just over 5%. If you like your beer then I would recommend sampling the Beavertown stable which also includes three pale ales and a bitter.
Duke’s specialty is beef ribs (£19.95) which are sourced from Ireland and smoked with hickory wood: these were chosen as one of London’s top ten dishes by Time Out. The menu has all you would expect from a barbecue restaurant – burgers, steaks and pulled pork hold center stage, with mac & cheese, beans, pickles and okra on the side.
I opted for the Duke’s greatest hits platter (£23.50) with beef and pork ribs, pulled pork, coleslaw, pickled onions and garlic bread. The beef rib lived up to the hype – it was sweet and succulent with a caramelised skin which was very tasty – the flesh close to the bone was less flavoursome but had absorbed some of the gelatinous texture from the bone which kept it interesting. I was slightly less impressed by the pork rib – the sweetness of the barbecue sauce dominated the flavour of the meat, but the texture was very nice. The pulled pork was reasonable although not as accomplished as the equivalent at Pitt Cue Co. The platter came with a vial of homemade barbecue sauce which was really wonderful – sharp, mustardy with toffee hues and a hint of vinegar.
Verdict: Duke’s serves up decent barbecue food in an unpretentious way, washed down with great beer.