Late one evening we stumbled up the inconspicuous stairs to the side of the Flinders hotel; on a mission to make it to Duke and duke it out with the promise of awesome food, imagine the horror to be told that we had no chance of getting a table that evening. Not too disenchanted we thought we would save it for another night, we here at the Empty Fridge are used to the new and cool places around Surry Hills not taking bookings, Duke being one such cool place. Luckily though one of us Empty Fridgers had the sense to call ahead a few weeks later (good work Gianna.) and managed to get a table at a reasonable hour on a balmy Friday night.
Having heard nothing but good things about Duke we were really keen to try it out. Not only does it have one of the coolest names but the food has been touted as some of the best in the Sydney food and bar scene. With fried chicken on the menu and plenty of alcohol, it's pretty hard to get any better of a mix. Somethings are meant to be together, it is our belief that fried chicken and anything alcoholic just works and makes the world go around. However there is more to the Duke menu than fried chicken - with ex Tet's chef Thomas Lim and 2010's Young Chef of the year Mitch Orr in the helm they truly keep things exciting. There were a number of delectable dishes that are well worth making the trip out to try including Smoked Eel with Saba and Pancetta but being indecisive we relied solely on our waitress' suggestions.
So what does the Empty Fridge duo do best when they are at a bar or anywhere licenced at all? Well they order a drink or four of course but being on their best behaviour (both of us had made the mistake of driving) we ordered some Monteith's Apple Cider ($8.50) and an Italian Highball - Campari, grapefruit and Fever Tree Tonic ($16). Refreshing drinks for a warm night and before anyone makes the assumption - the photo above is a bottle of water; served in a gin bottle, keeping in line with the Duke's left of centre approach to the dining experience. There is a wordly wine selection available, plus a mean cocktail list to match. Why oh Why did we drive?
The bistro has a really cool vibe with a mixture of cool lights adorned with old veuve bottles and of course a boars head by the bar. It really is a pretty cool place and rightly so given that it's a right smack bang in the middle of Surry Hills hipster scene, with heaps of Sydney's cool kids coming out to eat and have a drink. Yes even Sydney's hipsters eat believe it or not, how can't they when the food on offer is as cool as Duke's.
Bresaola, Egg Yolk Mustard, Citrus and Puffed Grains ($16) was a dish we were suggested to get. We were also told that we should eat everything in one mouthful- like a roll up - capturing the grapefruit, puffed grains and mustard all in the bresaola. It was great doing so because of the different textures and flavours involved. The acidity of the citrus complimented the saltiness of the bresaola and each mouthful just worked so well.
Fried Chicken Wings, Coleslaw Milk, Hot Sauce ($10) was the dish we had come for and it didn't disappoint. We are like moths drawn to flames when it comes the the good old fried chicken.Very crispy skin, soft and juicy white meat and a creamy coleslaw milk that really tasted so much better than any aioli or mayonnaise would. How can I forget the hot sauce, my favourite srirarcha hot sauce that is used to add that tasty kick to everything known to man.
Both of our dishes so far had been incredibly tasty and were full of flavour. Even though they were small servings (hipsters don't eat too much) I would order more the next time around. We still had one dish to go, suggested by our waitress - the Veal Shortrib Pancake PARTY ($26)!
This dish is what sums up what Duke's food is about; as stated on their website ' a left-of-centre approach to gastronomy' and good times. This is one party that everyone has to attend. The dish is like eating Peking duck; complete with pancakes, veal shortrib meat and pickled seaweed. Not to mention it was also a pretty substantial serving.
The veal shortrib meat is incredibly tender and ever so tasty. The sauce is sweet and rich and the glutinous meat just melts off the bone and in your mouth.
Much like everything else on the menu, this dish is best when all the components are combined and eaten together. Packing the veal into a pancake, adding the seaweed and drizzling the sauce on and stuffing it all in your mouth adds to the experience and makes eating all that much more enjoyable.
It really was a standout dish and you would be at a loss not to order it when you visit Duke. Be good and go to the pancake party, deep down you know you want to and believe me, you will not be disappointed. There is a party in Duke's pancake and you are invited.
So for all you cool kids, hipsters and fipsters (foodie hipsters) Duke is the cool place to come and grab a bite to eat and have a drink. Cool surrounds, cool kids and just plain old normal people sans bowtie like us with an awesome menu will not disappoint. Don't forget to give the boar a pat on the head as you leave, he's a friendly boar that one.