Would the old Duke have served deep-fried enoki mushrooms, chunky slices of porchetta with salsa verde, or burrata with peach, tomato and basil? Would it have offered 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?
Judging by its laminated menu, forever preserved in digital form thanks to Zomato, probably not. Those items would have looked odd next to the former “vege stack” Wednesdays.
But that menu (which proclaimed “all meals are housemade” in capital letters) is in the past, and we’re in the now. Enmore’s corner pub The Duke (formerly The Duke of Edinburgh Hotel) has had a spruce, and it’s out with the old and in with the new.
Except for the chairs.
Since Broadsheet last caught up with co-owner James Wirth, he’s had a change of heart about The Duke’s eccentric furniture. “We’ve kept the ‘ugly old-man gambling chairs’, like the ones you’ll find in poker-machine rooms. They’ve grown on us,” he says.
Since getting the keys to The Duke, the supergroup of hospitality guns, including Wirth and Michael Delaney (the duo behind transformative pub makeovers at The Norfolk, The Abercrombie, and The Oxford Tavern), DRNKS’s Joel Amos, Ghostboy Cantina’s Toby Wilson, and Chris Deadman (ex-The Forresters) have been pulling long days and nights renovating the venue, often finishing up at 5am and returning to the worksite at 10am. “I was trying to figure out how to sleep on the floor,” says Wirth.
But they’ve done it. The pride and joy is the covered beer garden, converted into a verdant courtyard with overgrown creepers, wooden benches and budding pineapple plants. “They’re just begging for some drunk person to steal them. Let’s see how long they last,” says Wirth.
In the dining room, they’ve slid in some studded brown vinyl booths “for that classic RSL pub look”; and in the front bar, the “baby poo mustard” paint job has been replaced with neutral-toned tiles, light wood panelling, and tasteful tartan carpet (it’s the same self-designed pattern Wirth and Delaney used at The Abercrombie).
Wilson has designed the “good pub food” menu, which 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 price marks 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; while on Fridays and Saturdays, the kitchen is open till 1am to cater for the post-Enmore gig crowd and hospitality workers.
On the corkscrews is Amos of online organic wine retailer DRNKS, who’s compiled the “cheapest fancy-pub wine list in the world”. If you’re familiar with DRNKS, you’ll recognise some of the excellent wineries on the list – Kindeli, Yetti and the Kokonut, Ochota Barrels – with drops averaging $10 a glass.
There’s 14 cocktails too. “They’re pretty sinkable, and not super complicated or stuffy,” says Wirth, unashamedly nominating the Pina Colada as his drink of choice. The house specialty is the Robert Mitchum, a concoction of Jack Daniels whisky, orange juice, maple syrup and an egg. “It’s like this delicious boozy frothy milkshake. It sounds kinda disgusting but I promise it’s not,” he says.
148 Enmore Road, Enmore
(02) 9519 1935
Mon to Wed 11am–12am
Thu to Sat 11am–2am
This article was updated on February 14, 2019. It first appeared on Broadsheet on December 13, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.