Duke’s Brew and Que has registered on a lot of radars since it started welcoming diners to De Beauvoir Town back in March. Early reports largely focused on its potential, with Hackney foodies especially quick to cross their fingers and hope that London’s latest American-style barbeque joint would deliver. After a few months of trial, error, and experimentation, Duke’s really seems to be finding its feet and was filling up rapidly at 6pm on a Monday night. It quickly became apparent why.
The premises are inviting with their happily confused mixture of on trend industrial decor and eccentric American roadhouse touches: antlers and prams pop up in wonderfully illogical places. The food too really hits the spot. Ribs are the pride and joy of any self-respecting BBQ restaurant and were the focal point of the concise menu. Bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the scrawny, unloved bones mugged off by American chain eateries and shoddy Chinese takeaways alike, this was the real deal as found south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
The beef variety was especially impressive and would satisfy even the most demanding inner caveman. Mammoth slabs of meat that looked straight out of Bedrock, they boasted an awesomely flavoursome crust (or ‘bark’ in proper ‘que parlance) that gave way to the kind of tender, pink core obtained by long, slow smoking – Duke’s give these bad boys up to 16 hours in one of their top-of-the-line smokers. The Memphis BBQ sauce, with its horseradish and mustard base, complemented them perfectly and offered a small taste of British comfort amidst all the bold, smoky flavours. The pork ribs didn’t offer the same degree of visual shock and awe but were similarly well executed, another example of meltingly tender meat that really satisfied.
Pulled pork sliders were another winner – some are already dubbing them the best in town and it’s not actually that presumptuous. The pork was well lubed with house sauce and the mini burger buns soaked up all the excess juices from the succulent meat. They were every bit as sexual as they sound – the deep-fried pickle garnish added crunch and was an appropriately dirty finishing touch. Only sides and accompaniments could do with improvement. Coleslaw was sickly sweet – unfortunately reminiscent of the slop sold at supermarkets – pickle spears were a bit soggy, and the pit-smoked baked beans with pork didn’t pack as much flavour as they could have. But these were the lone blips .
Discerning beer drinkers will also swoon over Duke’s: with six cask and five keg beers on offer alongside a hearty selection of bottled brews and quality spirits, it’s a seriously legit drinking den as well. The focus is firmly on craft beer and local breweries, so expect to see the likes of Camden Ink stout and Meantime London Lager taking pride of place over Guinness and Fosters.
As if that wasn’t a tempting enough proposition, Duke’s also boasts an on-site microbrewery, Beavertown, that currently produces three quality ales: the punchy 8-Ball IPA, lightly smoked Smog Rocket porter, and well-rounded Neck Oil Best Bitter are all impressive modern takes on landmark styles.
The slickness of the venture is due in part to the attentiveness and passion of its charismatic owners, and permeates down to the charming and informative staff. Both head brewer Logan Plant and restaurant manager Byron Knight are adamant that Duke’s Brew and Que has its best days to come.