Usually, I’m quite reluctant to review the same place twice. So many thoughts go through my head. The ambience will be the same, as the service and décor, and aside from the different things on the menu, what am I actually reviewing? Also, quite conscious that people may start to think I am on some sort of sponsorship from The Dukes Head. Just to confirm, I’m not.
The Dukes Head is situated in Billericay, just up the road from me. I was asked to meet someone there for an interview one summers day, and I fell in love with it, and over the last few years it has been somewhat of my ‘go to’ for something nice to eat, but saying this until this week I had only ever eaten in the pub bit.
I have a tradition of taking my Mum out for a nice meal every payday (I know I know, please all form an orderly queue to adopt me). One of my other ‘go to’ places is the King William in Chigwell, but this was a bit far out for a weeknight. I also can’t wait to try La Sala in Chigwell, because the Marbella one is pretty much my favourite place to eat on earth (and trust me, I’ve covered a fair bit of ‘earth’ on my travels). Due to the fact though, that we were going after work, and I have to eat every few hours to stop myself from becoming a murderously hangry psycho, we chose local.
We’ve never actually sat in the restaurant area of the Dukes Head, as we usually come on a Sunday, and this is a true crime because the restaurant bit is lovely. We were sat on a small table near the front, and one thing I liked is that the tables were quite far apart. Don’t get me wrong, as the noisest person in Essex I do appreciate a good ‘lively’ vibe in a restaurant, however what I’m not a fan of is someone practically sitting in my pocket when I try to eat.
Unfortunately due to suffering quite a bad case of ‘eyes bigger than belly’, I usually skip starters, and although they looked wonderful this was no exception. I’d rather have room to eat the entire meal than fill myself up on some salad malarkey that I wouldn’t enjoy as much as my ever so creamy mashed potato.
I had the pork belly, which was slow roasted to perfection, in such a way that you didn’t need to cut through with your knife, but gently prise the meat apart. The pork belly is served with mashed potato, and in a delightful touch, there were some pieces of crackling sticking out of the top. I love pork crackling, however some places, even my beloved La Sala get the serving of it all wrong. I’ve been to places that have served the crackling with the pork and it’s so hard not only can you not bite through it but you actually feel like you are trying to eat an industrial steel toe capped boot. This was all complimented by some runner beans and a gravy that had a tinge of apple, so one can only assume it was all fresh made.
My Mum is more of a traditional person, and by traditional I mean a complete and utter fusspot who won’t eat anything unless it used to swim, used to cluck or is a potato. She had the fish and chips, and in true pub style the fish was about as big as my forearm and the chips were as chunky as they come. Where she really turns her hand at being a truly professional assistant to my blogging is in the fact that I don’t/can’t eat most desserts, so she is always on hand to test run them for me.
The New York cheesecake was presented beautifully. It looked like a little, desserty piece of art on the plate and if it wasn’t so tasty I’m sure we would of spent more time looking at it. I always marvel at chef’s who can present food so well, because my serving basically consists of fitting as much as humanly possible onto the plate without it sliding off.
I washed down my meal with a glass of the house red, which was a bit more tasty than your average Blossom Hill or Echo Falls number, and probably one of the finer ‘house’ red’s I’ve sampled in the last few weeks, however saying that I’ve not been anywhere more glamourous than the local pub.
We had two mains, a dessert and two drinks each which will set you back around £50/£60, so effectively around £30 a head. You can book ahead on the Dukes Head website.