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The Duke’s Head, Crawley Down

The Duke’s Head

“PUB FOOD? It's a pub, it serves food... it needs to do it better.”

Reviewed 1 April 2014

We four were here for an evening dinner to celebrate my Mum’s birthday.
I know it was Sunday and there might have been an earlier demand but it was still a disappointment for one of our party to be told that there were no roasts left.
There did, however, appear to be a decent alternative selection.

Three chose spiced lamb koftas, tzatziki & sweet chilli jam starters. The lamb was very under-spiced and both sauces offered bought-in ordinariness.
My arancini risotto balls, mozzarella, tomato salsa & green chilli mayo was a well conceived dish. The contrasting textures were there but (I might as well try this with a straight face) my balls needed much more seasoning! The salsa and mayo were lacking any real zing and, once again, suggested that convenient jars had been opened.

The lack of real cooking was apparent in the ale battered haddock, frites, minted pea purée & homemade tartare sauce. I’m sure that pea purée can have more care lavished on it and if the tartare sauce really was homemade it was made by someone with no ambition to achieve any balance of texture or flavour.

Homemade West Country beef burger, gherkin, mustard mayo, Emmental cheese, relish & frites were not enjoyed by my wife. The accent on soggy carbohydrate was not balanced by a dry, chewy over-cooked meat patty.

On a positive note, Mum enjoyed her king prawn, crab & chorizo linguine with tomato, garlic & chilli… Yay!

My pan fried sea bass fillets, dauphinoise potato, asparagus & sauce vierge had the main ingredient treated properly. Fish flesh was soft and moist and the skin had the right amount of crispness. Another tiny suggestion that someone in the kitchen knows what they are doing! The rest of the plate was just ordinary with little attention to flavour and finish.

Desserts were ordered, eaten and forgotten because… unfortunately, they were forgettable.

So, the general consensus was that we had to compensate for a lack of any real quality in the food with our own happy banter. What a shame that we weren’t distracted more by a bit of sparkle from the kitchen!

Anyone presenting food should take pride in what they are offering. On our visit The Duke’s Head did not seem to have enough of the expectations which might generate that pride.

We plan to avoid the place until someone gives us clear evidence that things have changed.


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