A few weeks ago I took a bit of a holiday and visited Jenn Cross, one of my best friends in all the world in her adopted hometown of London. I had a fantastic time as I always do, and one of the highlights was the amazing meal I ate with Jenn at The Duke of Cambridge, which bills itself as “Britain’s First Organic Certified Gastropub.” (A gastropub is a pub that serves food alongside delicious British and imported beers).
All food and drink is certified by the Soil Association, and aside from the food, the eatery does everything possible to lower its impact, including recycling building materials and furniture, kitchen waste, tin, paper, card, corks and glass. They compost food waste, and the pub’s electricity is solar and wind-generated. They clean with only nontoxic and biodegradable cleaning products and have gotten involved in food programs at local schools. Really, really impressive commitment to the environment, health and great food (which are, of course, inexorably intertwined).
Our menu changes twice daily, and our chefs create dishes according to what is at its peak of freshness and flavour. All our food is made at the pub – from the ice cream to the bread and pickles. You’ll always find two meat, two fish and two vegetarian main dish choices.
Our chefs buy produce directly from small independent local farmers, and they ensure that nothing goes to waste – for example, instead of buying individual cuts of pork (which is costly and wasteful) they buy a whole carcass and use every part of the animal. This way, the farmer gets a decent payment for his animal, nothing is wasted and you get to try a broad range of delicious dishes.
Our meal was fantastic; we started with a bottle of organic prosecco (top image), as a little bubbly was in order for our celebratory meal.
We shared an appetizer of rocket (arugula), poached salmon, cucumbers, radishes, and horseradish kohl rabi with fresh lemon (£8). Every veg was tasted as if it had been pulled from the ground, washed, and brought to us moments later (especially the radishes; I’ve NEVER had such a crunchy radish before!) and Jenn said the salmon was amazing.
My main dish was the white bean and coriander cakes with tomato sauce and carrot salad (£13) which was not only very filling, but nuanced with garden centric flavors. From the coriander and other fresh herbs mixed into the lightly mashed (but not evicerated) white beans to the tang of the (very generous) topping of tomato sauce, to the simple carrot and greens salad that underlay the bean cakes, every bit of the dish tasted of sunshine, good soil and clean water (the flavor of great veggies is connected to the quality of the land in which they’re grown).
Jenn’s whole herring (no kidding!) with day lentils, greens and black olive tapenade (£16.25) was, as she reported “very tasty, with a crunchy skin and a mellow white meat.” According to her, the fish didn’t need much seasoning, and it didn’t have much, letting the fresh fish’s own flavor shine through. The lentils were hearty without being too salty, even with the tapenade, which was (as they are meant to be).
The Duke of Cambridge is about great food, served simply, and while we were there, many of the day’s specials were erased from the menu on the wall, as their small quantities were eaten up by the full crowd at the pub, so I’d recommend eating earlier in the evening if you want to have the menu’s full choice. There are two meat, two fish and two vegetarian meals offered at lunch and dinner.
Unfortunately, Jenn and I had no room for dessert, and I enjoyed a (fair trade and organic) espresso and caught up with my friend at our wooden table under the skylight as passersby on the streets of Islington bustled by.