Highgrove cooking comes to Kennington at this boozer-turned-gastropub
The Prince of Wales, gawd bless his double-breasted suits, still owns a small chunk of Kennington as part of his Duchy of Cornwall estate – a mere 16 flats and 23 houses these days, since a sizeable share was sold off to a housing association in 1990. But the future king’s local influence remains strong, even down the pub on the corner of his manor: look around this faux-Georgian tavern, and you’ll find the Duchy’s coat of arms embossed into the leather seats.
Not that you’ll find cheeky chappy Prince Charlie pulling pints behind the bar. But what you will find – by coincidence – is HRH’s former private chef Visen Anenden in the kitchen. This local boozer changed hands in 2014; the new owners have kept the name and the better fittings, but turned it properly gastro, bringing a recognisable Windsor accent to proceedings. The organic beef, lamb and pork are all from Highgrove, while the fish and shellfish are from Cornish and Scottish day boats. Provenance and seasonality are paid more than lip service; the heir apparent would approve of their buying policies.
Potted brown shrimps were earthy little blighters, served with fried potato skins; braised pig’s cheeks were paired with a root vegetable mash, then topped with a disc of black pudding and mole sauce. No, not the burrowing British lawn-destroyer, but the Mexican chilli sauce – in this case, a mild one.
The simplest dishes tended to be the best: tender potato gnocchi with mushrooms and wild garlic worked, but the addition of charred globe artichokes did not improve things. Far better were cod cheeks on a bed of houmous, garnished with crumbs flavoured with grape molasses.
Although the cooking surpasses that of other Kennington restaurants, the DuchyArms remains a local pub first and foremost. A large family gathering was taking place in the front bar on our visit, forcing us into the back room. ‘Are you bitter?’ asked our waitress.‘Or lager?’ If bitter, the choices include London Pride or Cornish Betty Stogs on draught, though there are good bottled beers and wines by the glass too. Perfect for a pint, a chinwag or a good meal – don’t pass this Duchy by.