After a fancy re-fit, this Portobello Road pub is every bit as chic as the Notting Hill postcode would suggest. A fitting gastro pub menu and some excellent ales from the Young’s pub stable make this a destination for the fancy footfall the area attracts.
Just by Portobello Road Market, The Duke of Wellington has had a shabby chic uplift to suit its environ. The pub has plenty of old-fashioned nooks and crannies that make for snug spaces to sit around the island bar and the décor is a blend of modern, bold turquoise and light oak wood, which pleasantly meets old-fashioned parlour dividers and an etched ceiling. Tucked away up the stairs you’ll find Finch’s Dining Room, which is overloaded with twee embellishments, be that floral upholstered chairs, calligraphy writing on the wall or draped curtains.
On evenings when the lights are low there’s a charmingly moody ambience given to such a light and bright daytime venue, showing that the pub’s décor isn’t as twee as initially thought. Couples happily settle into a quiet corner while groups of older Notting Hill residents cluster around the bar at available tables guffawing and bellowing as the ales slip down. Service is so relaxed that you may be kept waiting quite some time at the bar or completely forgotten about, which probably isn’t what you’d expect from an establishment in the area. Nevertheless, they run a very tight ship in Finch’s Dining Room, with courteous waiting staff on hand to offer up menu suggestions but knowing when to leave customers to it. It’s a shame it doesn’t fill up quite so much upstairs, but the dining room is hidden away somewhat, more of a destination for those in the know.
A gastro pub menu makes a few nods to modern London dining trends – see the small plates for starters – but also keeps things traditional. There’s no finer example than a small plate of potted beef cheeks with mini Yorkshire puddings (£6), a contemporary twist on a Great British classic. They are cooked in a Meantime pale ale jelly and spicy Horseradish cream, but the meat is disappointingly dry. A roasted bone marrow option (£5) is far more enjoyable, a large, halved bone with its marrow filling served sizzling to the table and accompanied with a moreish onion chutney and sourdough toast.
Main courses are more of the gastro pub classics done well – pork belly (£13.50) is twice cooked to give a crispy skin and is offset perfectly with apple sauce and a sweet caramelised red cabbage accompaniment, and a wedge of fondant potato completes the dish. And a house favourite as advertised on the menu is the venison burger, a rich and gamey patty that is cooked so it’s still moist and tender in the middle. Blue cheese on top is divine, but a rasher of bacon isn’t needed in this already rich mound of poshed-up dude food. The dessert menu is equally appetising and satisfyingly trendy too – you only have to look at the salted caramel ice cream that accompanies the pear tart tatin (£6) to know that.
The bar downstairs is beautifully stocked with spirits, including the finest gins from Sipsmith as well as local distiller Portobello Road. As a Young’s pub, beer is never an after-thought despite the pub’s gastro lean. The Duke of Wellington stocks the full Young’s range on draught as well as Portobello Star, Camden Hells lager and a few options from Meantime brewery, with Meantime London Lager at £4.74 a pint. Wines are well considered for enjoyment in the upstairs restaurant. Bar staff recommend a Rioja from producer El Coto (£20.25), which has depth and fruitiness that well suits the hearty British pub grub. But whites are just as geared towards food-matching, with a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£25.80) and Chenin Blanc from South Africa (£17.90) showing the pub’s slight preference to New World tipples.
The Last Word
A few careful tweaks to a solid menu and a bit more pace from behind the bar, and The Duke of Wellington could be a star attraction on the already famous Portobello Road.