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A 'GREEN' GASTROPUB IN LONDON
By Chris Barnett
October 8, 2009 -- From the outside, the Duke of Cambridge looks like a typical London pub, with weather-beaten woods, two floors of flats upstairs and a painting of the Duke over the front door. Inside, it seems like any other traditional English pub, with a stand-up bar, a collection of mismatched tables and chairs and a cheerful crowd of neighborhood and visiting elbow-benders.
But always scrub first impressions. Despite its Victorian ancestry, humble décor and cozy charm, the Duke of Cambridge is on the cutting edge of the global effort to preserve the planet's health. The Duke says it is the world's first and only certified organic gastropub, where libations and everything on its eclectic menu have never been touched by herbicides, pesticides or any environmental villain.
If you're not familiar with the term, a "gastropub" is what the British call a public house that combines traditional pub comforts with inventive mixology and inspired cuisine. The Duke is a lively, but civilized, version of the trend. There's no television, no dartboard, and no music to drown out conversations.
So committed is the Duke to eco-friendly sustenance that all of the well-known English beers are banned. You can't order a pulled pint of Theakston's famed Old Peculier ale, Fuller's Extra Special Bitter or Taddington Lager. But there is no shortage of suds to quaff. Seven organic lagers, ales and a cider are on draught. Ten organic bottled brews, including a powerhouse (14 proof) spicy Dunkerton's Cider, are chilling in the fridge.
The Duke's owner, Geetie Singh, is a passionate environmentalist who opened the pub in 1998 and single-handedly persuaded London's Pittsfield Brewery to ferment chemical-free barley, malt, wheat, hops, yeast and spring water. Today, Pittsfield Eco-Warrior Organic Pale Ale is on draught and Pittsfield Organic Stout is bottled.
A "green" pub also has some drawbacks if you thirst for familiar cocktails. Don't ask assistant manger and barman Dominic Bailey for a bone-dry martini with your favorite gin. He only pours Juniper, London's organically distilled gin, and no one has invented organic dry vermouth. The classic English gin and tonic? The Duke of Cambridge mainstay is Juniper gin mixed with Fever Tree tonic straight from the bottle, not a bar gun. Fever Tree is not "certified" organic, but a purified version is said to be on its way.
"We only mix a few cocktails because it's so difficult to find locally made organic ingredients," explains the genial Bailey, who works in jeans and T-shirt behind the 20-foot-long reclaimed copper-topped wooden bar.
I couldn't order a Manhattan, an Old Fashioned or a Whiskey Sour because no distillery produces a naturally made bourbon whiskey and the only known organic rye whiskey is from Oregon, nearly half a world away. But Scotch whisky aficionados are in luck. The Duke carries Highland Harvest, an organic blend, and Benromach, a small-batch organic single malt that is sweet with a hint of toffee.
While the Duke may not be laden with world-famous spirits, what's poured is certified organic by the U.K. Soil Association, which evaluates the bona fides of anything claiming to be 100 percent natural. Two examples: Papagayo Spiced Rum and Utkins White Rum, both distilled in remote regions of Paraguay.
Organic vodka is catching on globally, but the Duke stocks only UK5, named after the shorthand symbol of the Soil Association. While Bailey admits the pub is short on organic cocktails, two ounces of UK5 vodka in a tall glass filled to the brim with organic cranberry juice passes the purity test.
Surprisingly, the Duke can quench just about any thirst or excite any taste bud--naturally. I didn't expect to find cordials that were additive free but the pub's repertoire includes Cinpinard's organic Cognac; Fasoli Gino Grappa, made from organically grown chardonnay grapes in Tuscany; and a German distilled organic Amaretto. Organic wines by the glass include seven reds and whites, three roses, two sparklers and three desert wines.
The Duke's organic passion spills over to its pub grub. The food on offer--hearty, rustic British fare with Mediterranean influences--uses only fresh, in-season, organically certified ingredients bought from local growers. The menu changes twice daily.
My suggestion? Try the mutton, mushroom and red wine stew with pearl barley and kale. And then hoist a pint of Pittsfield Eco-Warrior Pale Ale to Geetie Singh for "going green" from the get-go and never going back.
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ABOUT CHRIS BARNETT Chris Barnett writes about business-travel tactics and strategies that save time and money and help minimize hassles. He is based in San Francisco and has written for a wide variety of major newspapers and national magazines. Barnett on Business Travel is syndicated by Creators Syndicate.
THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Chris Barnett in the spirit of free speech and to help encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Barnett. This material may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Chris Barnett.
This column is Copyright © 2009 by Chris Barnett. JoeSentMe is Copyright © 2009 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.