This lively Marylebone boozer takes its name from Rosa Lewis, whose culinary talents earned her the mantle “Queen of Cooks”, and later “The Duchess of Duke Street”. Having received a makeover from Stonegate Pubs, The Duchess now features modern, dark blue walls and plush velvet seating, adding a touch of elegance many pubs lack. The food has had an overhaul too, with Hippo Inns’ Lee McMullen overseeing the menu. Said menu promises “pub classics with a twist”, a concept that often yields mixed results.
One glance at the menu and the promised ‘twists’ are clear and present. A tonkatsu scotch egg in particular catches our eye. Having been split in two, the panko-pork shell unleashes a lava flow of sunset-orange yolk, only to be balanced by the aromatic sauce. It’s a playful idea, and it really works. Elsewhere, a smoked eel creation doesn’t quite stick the landing, let down by the sushi rice podium being a touch undercooked.
Fish and chips in London are almost always disappointing, yet The Duchess once again pulls through. Gloriously brittle batter houses soft, flakey cod and the house tartare sauce is a triumph, bolstered by fresh herbs. The rosemary-salted chips are good, although not quite as crunchy as the triple-cooked billing suggested. The burger, meanwhile, is an indulgent delight, topped with smoked cheddar, burnt onion mayo, an onion ring and house pickles. Washed down with a serviceable New Zealand Riesling, then bookended by a pleasingly light strawberry panna cotta, the meal draws to a close.
While this food is by no means groundbreaking, there are also very few mistakes. And, at around £30 for three courses, The Duchess is excellent value for money, especially considering the location. And who knows? If Rosa Lewis could climb the culinary ranks, maybe her namesake can too.