Tucked away discreetly in a quiet corner of St James, you’ll find a quintessentially British hotel and restaurant with a very illustrious history. Famed as the place where Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, used to enjoy Martinis, Dukes London is a must-visit. Not only will their Martinis leave you shaken and stirred, Nigel Mendham’s THIRTY SIX restaurant will have a similar effect.
Once you cross the threshold of Duke’s, you enter a clubby world of subtle elegance and refinement. The dining room is located downstairs in a room filled with natural daylight. Decorated in shades of peach and white, it’s a very welcoming space.
I’d had the occasion to experience Duke’s cuisine before, with their spectacular picnic in Green Park. It’s a real treat when the weather warms up. This time we were invited to try Executive Chef, Nigel Mendham’s, British Larder. Nigel is a keen promoter of British food and he’s concocted a fantastic menu of seasonal produce. We enjoyed a glass of Champagne Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut, a lively wine with a smooth finish, whilst we studied the menu.
The first thing we noticed was the great value for money. A two course lunch or dinner is £25 whilst a three course menu is a reasonable £35, considering the quality of food and service – of course there’s also an extensive a la carte menu. Our friendly sommelier recommended an Esk Valley Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand for Mr Luxe. This intense and crisp wine was so good that we’ll stock up on some at home.
I chose a glass of Chapel Down Bacchus 2014 white wine. This English wine is very much in keeping with the menu’s British theme and has notes of grapefruit and gooseberry.
Throughout 2016, Dukes plays host to Nigel’s British Larder, and will be offering a different British dish each month. Some of the ingredients are foraged, as this is a passion of Nigel’s since he was a young child growing up in Norfolk. We enjoyed a complimentary appetiser of celeriac and apple soup with fresh granary bread. It had a lovely creamy texture, balanced nicely by the tartness of the apple.
As for the homemade granary bread, we loved the loaf presentation and it was difficult not to eat it all!
My goat’s cheese flan with heritage beetroot and celery sorbet was a sight for sore eyes. Despite not generally liking beetroot, this was perhaps my favourite dish, with the contrasting warm cheese flan and ice cold sorbet.
As for my hubby’s ham hock with pea purée, langoustine, podded peas and pea oil, there wasn’t a morsel left. The langoustine and ham made for a very successful pairing.
I enjoyed my Lancashire corn fed chicken with foraged mushrooms, burnt onion, leeks and spelt. Did you know that spelt is one of the healthiest grains, with a wide range of nutrients? Normally, burnt onion might sound like a mistake but here it was intentional and a good complement to the chicken. I’d love to go and forage mushrooms, as long as someone told me which ones are safe to eat!
Mr Luxe’s line caught Pollock with hazelnut, pancetta celeriac and mussel was an interesting dish. The hazelnuts added a satisfying crunch to the soft fish and the foam mousse was very light and airy.
His peanut crunch dessert was another great combination of caramelized banana, peanut parfait and banana sherbet.
I’m always a sucker for chocolate and this dark chocolate mousse with crème fraiche was a real delight. It had some unusual but healthy ingredients including pumpkin seed and chestnut squash.
Mr Luxe had a lovely selection of petits fours with his coffee – mini lemon meringue pie, strawberry and chocolate marshmallow and chocolate macaroons…of course I tried a few..Yes sharing is caring ;-).
Dukes is one of London’s most charming hotels and it’s now exporting that savoir-faire to Dubai with the imminent opening of Dukes Dubai on the Palm Jumeirah. I’m sure it will be a resounding success. It was a wonderfully relaxing lunch that we followed up with a visit to the nearby Royal Academy’s Painting the British Garden exhibition. It seemed like a fitting end to a very British afternoon! What are your favourite British dishes?