Just when you think all the pubs in Walthamstow have been titivated, another one goes and gets its self some new owners, a fresh lick of paint of some bloody good burgers. The Dukes Head on Wood Street closed its doors back in April, and to be honest with you, I thought it was probably going to be turned in to flats. This cavernous old pub lay empty for a while. Rumours that it had been purchased by the owners of the Bell proved not to be true, the Dukes head just sat there on the corner doing not much of anything. I’m pleased to say the Duke has bucked the trend, it hasn’t become the latest des res for some upwardly mobile bright young things. It is still a pub, and it has thrown open its doors and let the good people of Walthamstow back inside. Much to the dogs delight, the pub is also dog friendly so got come in for nose around as well.
When Prince reinvented himself he changed his name to symbol. The pub has done something similar and now goes by the moniker of The Duke, but I’m pleased to say that loosing its head has done the Duke no damage at all. Not only has the front had a lick of paint, but the inside has been given a good old going over with a roller as well. If you frequented the Duke before it closed you will still recognise bits of the interior, the stage is still by the window and some of the seating is the same. Enough of a change has been made to make the inside feel fresh and new. A couple of large Chesterfields sit in the middle of the pub, the pool table has gone and a new sign has been added to the front of the bar. It was good to see that the pub has retained its dartboard, a staple ingredient of the Great British Pub that tends to get ripped out during refurbs these days. A word of caution though, if you ever see me near the dartboard I would avoid the immediate area as my aim is absolutely shocking.
The selection of beers is pretty decent, it has the regular larger offerings and a number of real ales including some local brews from Wildcard Brewery. We sank a few pints of Shipwreck, an American Pale Ale which was very drinkable. There is also a good selection of cocktails on offer which we will need to go back and sample at some point. The food is provided by the burger joint, and is pretty reasonably priced. I had a cheese burger which cost £7.95, it was served with fries and cooked to perfection. The menu only offers burgers which may not suit everyone, but if the burgers we ordered are anything to go by the quality is very high. The serving staff from the burger joint all wear radios and head sets. Every now and then it did remind me of those American restaurants where staff are prone to singing happy birthday to people and cheering because someone has ordered a milkshake. Thankfully the friendly staff were enthusiastic but refrained from whooping.
When we were in the Duke on Sunday Afternoon I saw a number of people that drank in the pub before it closed, and I also saw people that I had never spotted in there before. Perhaps that’s a good indication that the owners of the Duke have got the refurb right? Maybe they have changed just enough to get new people in, without alienating the old customers. As with any pub that has changed, and it has changed, this isn’t just a lick of paint, it will take a while for the Duke to bed in and decide what kind of pub it is going to be. From our first visit though, it looks like the owners have done a good job. The atmosphere was nice, the staff friendly and beer and food was good. The Duke may have lost its head, but it seems to know which direction it is going. For more info check the pubs new website.