You can tell a lot about a restaurant’s reputation by the clientele it keeps. How does Kate Moss, Jamie Hince, Kanye West, Bono, Taylor Tomasi Hill and the Artic Monkeys sound then?
If you’re thinking this place must be cooler than an eskimo sitting in a fridge eating a Frosty Fruit, then you’d be right. Welcome to Duke Bistro – the inconspicuous upstairs eatery of The Flinders Hotel in Sydney’s Darlinghurst.
Duke has been around for a couple of years and already become a landmark for its refreshing left-of-centre gastronomy and moody-meets-quirky interior that favours a slightly Colonial feel. It’s a trendy hangout for music-industry types, fashionable Gen Y’s and food-loving Gen X’s who want a chilled out but buzzing atmospheric experience accompanied by high-quality dishes and hip cocktails.
In most recent news, Duke has welcomed chef Nik Hill into the fold, which ups the Cool Britannia reputation even more. Even though he is an Aussie and got his break at Quay, Hill has spent the last three years working in the Michelin-starred Notting Hill restaurant The Ledbury.
Teamed with Billy Hannigan (also a Ledbury stalwart), the pair have made The Duke their own in recent weeks and released a mouth-watering seasonal menu that I was privileged enough to taste firsthand.
Among the winners of their spring dishes are white tuna with oyster cream and verjus; beef brisket with wild garlic and pickled celeriac; and lamb shoulder with goats milk, dried olives and rosemary. My absolute favourite, however, was a cooked asparagus ensemble that came with hazelnuts and a lid of fried sourdough (pictured). The desserts were just as tantalising. In fact, it would be a sin to dine at The Duke and not indulge in the specially-made donuts, lemon curd and cream.
Overall, it’s a restaurant that kicks bland and boring to the Darlinghurst curb. From the moment you traipse up the steep stairs of The Duke, you’re hinted that the dining experience is going to be distinctive, and a bit on the fun side. And it is. There is not an air of superiority or snootiness about the food at all. It just tastes REALLY good and comes laced with a side of dish of laissez-faire cool indifference.
If chance (or burgeoning work hours) have it that you land there later than expected, you’ll also be pleased to learn the kitchen offers a late-night dining experience (in fact, it’s open til midnight). And who knows … if you do head there after hours you may just be lucky enough to spot someone as famous as Miss Moss next time.
Location: Duke Bistro at The Flinders Hotel, 65 Flinders Street Darlinghurst
For more information visit http://www.dukebistro.com.au/
Jessica Montague is madison’s features writer and sub-editor. She compiles the Food & Drinks News page each month. You can follow her on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/#!/JessLMontague