After a few years of dithering, I finally got my pub in London. It was simple in the end; I married a publican. Geetie Singh opened the Duke of Cambridge in Islington in 1998. Raised in a commune and appalled by the food she served as a waitress, Geetie was determined to put her scrupulous ethics into practice; the Duke was, and remains, the only organic pub in the UK and the Queen even gave Geetie an MBE in recognition of her efforts.
Last week a charming and highly complimentary Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, members of the food glitterati and sundry friends and customers of both businesses came to the opening of Riverford at the Duke of Cambridge. The pub was a forest of cardoons, cabbages, radicchio and leeks; the food was fantastic but the vegetable cocktails stole the night. My favourite, ‘Farm Fury’, was a take on a Whisky Sour cum Old Fashioned where radicchio extract replaced the bitters; an inspirational elixir providing inebriation and purification at once.
Many restaurants and pubs make vague and mostly spurious claims about their sourcing; I was recently assured by a waiter that all their chickens were wild, produced within London and exclusively slow plucked. Wow; do they think diners are really so gullible? At the Duke everything is 100% organic or wild and until last week, the only imported fruit or vegetable on the menu was a lemon. Geetie and I argue about this still and we will compromise a little, but at least 90% of what we serve will still be UK grown. The beer is fantastic, and Benoit our genius in the kitchen is no madder than most chefs. In addition to exceptional food, wine and beer, there will be a produce market every Saturday (perhaps soon to be accompanied by brunch), supper clubs and cookery classes from the New Year. Find out more here.
Benoit has had cardoon fritters on the menu every day but he isn’t going to use them all before winter closes in. They are more tender and less bitter than I have managed to grow before, and make a fantastic simple gratin. I cannot bear to see them wasted, so the last 500 or so can be added to your box at £4 each, complete with my gratin recipe, on a first come-first-served-basis.