Originally, getting deep-fried enoki mushrooms, chunky slices of porchetta with salsa verde, or burrata with peach, tomato and basil at The Duke would have been unthinkable. So too would have been a glass of barbera from South Australian natural-wine producer Oiseau et Renard, or a bottle of very smashable Jumping Juice by Victoria’s Patrick Sullivan winery. But when The Duke reopened in December 2018 after a refurb, all this became possible. The old chairs, though, remain. The ugly old-man gambling chairs, like the ones you’ll find in poker-machine rooms, have a special place in co-owner James Wirth’s heart.
He’s one of the people, with Michael Delaney, also responsible for makeovers at The Norfolk, The Abercrombie, and The Oxford Tavern). They’re in business with DRNKS’s Joel Amos, Ghostboy Cantina’s Toby Wilson, and Chris Deadman (ex-The Forresters).
In the dining room there are studded brown vinyl booths, neutral-toned tiles, light wood panelling and tasteful tartan carpet. The Duke also has a verdant courtyard with overgrown creepers, wooden benches and budding pineapple plants.
The menu features plenty of vegetarian and vegan options (a handful of salads, eggplant parmagiana, cauliflower “steak”), a plate of cold cuts from LP’s Quality Meats, and “cheap” ($19) and “expensive” ($38) steak options (the difference between a 200-gram flank and a 400-gram dry-aged sirloin). For lunch there’s an edited list supplemented with sandwiches and subs. And on Fridays and Saturdays the kitchen is open till 1am.
The wine list is cheap and fancy. The Kindeli, Yetti and the Kokonut and Ochota Barrels feature, and drops average $10 a glass. There are 14 cocktails, too. The house specialty is the Robert Mitchum: Jack Daniels whisky, orange juice, maple syrup and an egg.