There’s a stuffed boar’s head sitting on the bar stool next to me at The Duke, a late night bar/bistro above the Flinders Hotel. Its eyes are glazed, its expression dazed, and at this time of night I’m beginning to feel the same way.
I’m with my Fijian bodyguard who, after a number of cocktails in various establishments, is now staring down the boar to make sure it won’t cause trouble as I order some drinks. The bartender here is Luke Ashton, who was one of the top contenders in this year’s Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year competition – and as such, I’m more than happy to follow his suggestion of trying the Duke Special.
Made with cognac, mandarin liqueur, cherry and lemon, this cocktail is special – it’s crisp, balanced and complex yet also easy to drink.
My bodyguard/personal trainer advises me that we better eat as well and so we order some of the fried chicken wings and hot sauce. I’ve never been a huge fan of chicken wings but we’re too sozzled to understand the rest of the menu, which seems like it’s made up from random words strung together. One entry is: “Scallops, Eggs, Edamame, Pigs Tail” and another is “Bonito, Lardo, Pumpkin, Coffee”.
The fried chicken wings, however, are not just good – they’re great. They’re awesome. They’re crispy and succulent and full of flavour – in fact, they’re the first chicken wings since I discovered Kentucky Fried Chicken at the age of 5 that made me want to dive head first into a bucket of them. I ask my bodyguard if this is possible but instead he simply orders another plate instead.
The crowd here is young and a little offbeat. There are plenty of tattoos and quiffs, while the décor looks like a grandmother with a bad attitude decorated the place. In short, I like it. I like it a lot.
Duke Bistro, 65 Flinders Street, Darlinghurst. See the Duke Bistro website. Open Tuesday to Saturday.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate The Duke Bistro?
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