Tim Hampson's Beer Blog

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Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road, SW15

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Great for watching the Thames flow by

Duke’s Head, 8 Lower Richmond Road, SW15

The front bar, of this smart, hard-working pub, has commanding views over the Thames and it would have heaving yesterday for the Oxford Cambridge Boat Race. It is said that the roar from the crowd, who have a grandstand view of the universities’ boathouses and the start of the race can be heard all the way up river at the finish in Mortlake. However, race fans will get a better view of the action from the terrace of the White Hart on Riverside SW13.

On a near perfect spring Sunday it is a glorious place to be. Younger drinkers particularly enjoy the back bar or the basement and it is said to be the place where many a young man takes his future wife on a first date. Because of its location it is busy pretty much all year around. On days like today drinkers stand out on to the footpath and even further across the street, until passing walkers, joggers and cyclists and customers become one big party.

Part of the pub’s charm and the reason why it can serve many people quickly is the large and elaborate bar. Island bars were very much a mid-Victorian innovation and owe their invention to the famous engineer Isambard Kingdon Brunel. Passengers travelling on Brunel’s Great Western Railway often faced a wait at Swindon, and the railway’s bar was too small to serve all the thirsty passengers at once before the train continued on its way. Brunel realised that an island bar maximised the available bar footage in relationship to the number of people waiting for a drink and the staff serving, meaning that more people could be served in the same time with lest frustration. The idea caught on and boosted the trend of the 1870s and 1880s for pubs to be divided into rooms and snugs. The pub still has much of its original ornate glass, polished woodwork and smart Victorian fireplaces.

The food is adventurous pub grub and includes good fillet steaks, braised pork belly and grilled fish and the pint of Wells & Young’s Bitter was just glorious.

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Written by timhampson

March 27, 2011 at 1:01 pm

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