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Monday, 22 June 2015

Popping up at The Dukes Head!

Between peak wedding season, birthday frolicking, the pub and party hustling prescribed by fine weather, and a perversely overloaded inbox at work, I have managed to entirely neglect my blog, almost altogether abandon social media and without reservation, taken a break from being that person who takes photos of food! In the hours before yet more pending nuptials though (first and only one of six this year that is local to London...hip hip hooray!), I find myself sitting here, getting lost in prose, nibbling on some homemade prawn har gau, waiting for the creases to fall out of my now already thrice worn matrimonial dress (no, I still don't own an iron and yes, I know I'm 33), and daydreaming about a newly discovered Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Satisfy My Bowl incase you're wondering - it's a heavenly combination of banana ice cream with caramel & cookie dough swirls and dark chocolate discs!). Where then, do I begin and which eatery do I write about today, with so much to catch you up on?! Closest to home first seems like a safe bet, so please walk with me to the The Dukes Head in Highgate for a craft beer, real ale and a revolving door of pop up kitchens...

A relatively small pub on Highgate High Street, my Saturday night is set to be a pretty chilled one and I find myself rather enjoying the inadvertent escapism from city hullabaloo. I'm drinking with locals again, where the staff are friendly, the bar stools are worn by the same asses from week to week, and there's at least one person propping up the bar, popping peanuts. It is infact exactly what a pub should be from the moment you walk in. So, why then do I only now realise how much I've missed it?! Why has it taken me nearly five years of gallivanting the finery's, dives, basements and penthouses in this fine town to feel at home in a regular boozer again!? Aside from the blatant endorsement of trendy craft beers and real ale du jour, not to mention the shrine to the local Scared Gin behind the bar (let's face it though, gin that is distilled in Highgate should be boasted about!), grabbing a drink at this pub was like putting an old pair of comfy socks on after your folks have lit the fire and baked cake!

The bar staff indulged my lack of beer knowledge with glee by offering me a taste of my top three very random picks, which was greatly appreciated because when I say that my picks were random, I mean to clarify that I select craft beer like I do horses at the Grand National: by pretty colours and quirky names alone (surely I'm not the only one who does this?!). So happy I was with my final choice though, that before I knew it, I was on my fifth pint and feeling like a party would be an excellent idea. What happened next was not my fault and the last thing I recall before crawling into bed past 3am, was bobbing at a bus stop outside Boogaloo, probably dancing to my iPod and definitely boring the nuts off a complete stranger, all while halfheartedly dodging the rain!

As much as I appreciate a craft beer, spiffing pubs and accidental dancing though, I can't deny that the real reason I sought out this pub in the first place, was to get my chops around some juicy Colombian food on the final day of the Colombian Street Kitchen pop up. I do not lie to you when I say that I traipse around town in search of great plantain, and ecstatic I am to report then, that these are the best Plantain Soldiers I've tasted since being introduced to the humble fried foodstuff in Cuba back in 2011 - they were soft but, retained their bite; not too sweet nor starchy, not greasy and altogether perfect for only £3.50. I opted for the very traditional Paisa Pie (£9.50), which was a rich stew of beans, pork belly and beef, topped with arepa (ground maize dough and cooked flour) - it was delicious and substantial but I'm afraid that it paled into insignificance next to the Cariminolas (£12.50), which were the most expensive thing on the menu, but good sweet Jesus, they were lighter-than-air torpedoes of fried yuka, stuffed with creamy coconut chicken and fresh coriander. I do not much care for coconut dishes either (I overdosed on Thai food and subsequently can't eat it since my travelling days), but in this instance, I had the worst dose of food envy I'd experienced in a while. Perfection in a bamboo bowl I tell you! Service was pretty slow unfortunately, but since I was in no rush and the beer was going down so smoothly, I was in no mood to grumble!

You've missed Colombia Street Kitchen at The Dukes Head now, but if you're keen to sample their delights, you should head down to the State of Independence Market in Hackney this weekend (27 - 28 June 2015!). If however, you want to reacquaint yourself with a good and proper local watering hole and enjoy the next pop up kitchen, Howard's Meat Co. is a Texan BBQ and inhouse right now!

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