Review - The Iron Duke

Review – The Iron Duke

I have great affection for The Iron Duke on Waterloo Street. Not only was it the venue for the sorely missed I Predict A Pop Quiz (2006-2010, 2011-2013) but it is also one of the cosiest, most traditional pubs you’ll find in the middle of the city.

No gimmicks to be found here – only a roaring log fire, creaking leather chairs, stained wooden tables, conversational bar-staff and a decent selection of beer, wine and sprits. The traditional aspect is part of the reason why Russell Tisbury’s proven pub grub menu works so beautifully at The Iron Duke.

Having previously succeeded in rejuvenating kitchens at The Hop Poles and Temple Bar, Russell moves on once again to add a much-neeeded chef’s touch to this Hove boozer’s menu. Gone is the painfully dated Thai kitchen and in its place a menu compromising of crowd pleasers: homemade soup, pork belly, mussels, rib-eye steak and beer-battered fish and chips.

Humble as ever, Russell was keen to stress his desire to move away from trends and return to serving affordable plates of good quality food, something clearly reflected in his inexpensive menu.

Russell is eager for me to try a pie. Usually, this baked good is something I shy away from, often finding them too stodgy and lacking in filling. Arm twisted, I ordered the Roast Chicken and Chestnut Mushroom Pie – hand-raised and baked until golden, served with champ potato, buttered greens and gravy (£9.95).

Vegetarians, don’t fear. Russell has options for you, including roasted vegetable calzone, beer battered halloumi, bean and vegetable burger and (the dish my friend ordered) Butternut, Mushroom, Puy Lentil Strudel – with goat’s cheese, roasted vegetables, colcannon potato, buttered greens and a light jus (£9.95).

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Vegetarian strudel and Chicken Pie at The Iron Duke.

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Chicken and mushroom pie at The Iron Duke.

Presented neatly on a pristine, round white plate, the chicken and mushroom pie crowned a mound of champ and kale, dribbling gravy from the lid down. Served piping hot, it smelt enticing.

Slicing open the perfectly baked shortcrust pastry with a knife, the contents tumbled out into the mashed potato and gravy. The filling was fantastic: large chunks of tender chicken breast in a rich, meaty gravy, while throughout were round chunks of nutty, chestnut mushrooms.

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Whilst the pie itself was brilliant, the champ took the dish from good to great. Smooth without being watery, the buttery mash with flecks of spring onion was solid and didn’t become soggy with the addition of liquid from the pie or gravy. Russell puts this down to using a particular, high-quality potato, a gamble that has clearly paid off.

The only thing that marred the whole pie and mash experience were the greens. Slightly undercooked, the bitter superfood wasn’t as enjoyable as I had hoped.

Taking a short breather, we were ready for dessert. Nothing wins me over more than a toffee or caramel based pudding and – as if by chance – The Iron Duke menu lists Sticky Toffee Pudding – served with butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream (£4.95).

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Iron Duke.

Sticky Toffee Pudding at The Iron Duke.

Small but perfectly formed, the square of pudding was buttery and light, a far cry from the dense slabs of toffee and date-laced sponge I’ve tried in other pubs and restaurants. Surrounded by a thin and flavoursome butterscotch sauce, the pudding wasn’t overly sweet and left a wickedly intense toffee aftertaste. The vanilla ice cream added a cooling, creamy flavour to this wonderful dessert.

With winter well on its way, the food and interiors of The Iron Duke make for a cosy haven to spend a lunchtime or evening in. I was impressed with Russell’s cooking and am sure his pub food menu will be a hit with both locals and visitors alike.

The Iron Duke, 3 Waterloo Street, Hove, BN3 1AQ

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Claire’s food was complimentary, courtesy of The Iron Duke