The hardest bit of reviewing a pub is to know what balance to strike between complements and critique, humour and insight, facts and fancy in order to provide you, the reader, with a good understanding of the venue in question. The quandary with this place is working out which utterly dreadful aspect to highlight first given that the whole experience was nothing short of nightmarish.
The Duke of Sussex is located thus, next to a main road, behind Waterloo Station, adjacent to one of those little parks you get in London where people go to drink a few beers whenever the sun bothers to shine but are really only there to offer dog walkers a place to let their mongrels take a dump. It’s not a place I’d want to go to if I wasn’t in the area for business; incidentally most of the clientele appeared to be in the area for one business in particular, banking, and if you’re ever had the ill fortune to stumble across an over tailored shoutcloud of these people before you’ll understand how pleasant the trial of being there was. There is generous outside area but given its proximity to the incredibly busy road it’s unpleasant and will contribute to your inevitable death from a smog related disease.
The clientele and the location are however not entirely the fault of the pub or its landlord. So let’s talk about the extensive list of things that are.
Good staff are the cornerstone of an excellent pub and can by themselves make up for other shortcomings there might be around a bar. Without exception the myriad staff here could not have looked less happy had they been opening a present on Christmas Day to discover it was the severed body part of a close relative with a ransom note attached to it. They also seemed utterly lacking in purpose and direction, palpable anxiety ruining the atmosphere, chaos causing glacially slow service. Tables were overflowing with glasses and bottles as dead eyed waiting staff barged past with a miniature gravy boat filled with mustard; which leads neatly onto the next festering turd of a problem.
Food should be served on plates. Whilst no comment will be made about the quality of the food, which wasn’t sampled, the manner in which it is served deserved comment. Miniature roasting trays, flower pots and chopping boards are not appropriate vessels with which to convey any dish. Instead it looks like the budget was getting tight so the clearance shelves at Homebase provided for the crockery. One of these items might pass as quaint, but a litany of them is beyond the pale. Stop doing it.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like if Nigel Farage gave up being a fact bending imperialistic wafflemonger and took up interior design? No? I imagine not, because you want to sleep at night, but just try and conjure up and image of what he might begin to vomit up if he did turn his attention to drapes and throw cushions. Then add into that image a sheer determination to include every single crap pub cliché under one roof and you are getting close to picturing the ordeal that is The Duke of Sussex.
Cheap aluminium sculptures of double decker busses and WWI bi-planes, giant wooden plumbing sculptures, pretend candles and spade handle topped bar pumps all grace the list of things you’d want to avert your eyes from or set fire to. One wall seems to be ‘weathered’ whilst others are a depressing muddy gray colour. There is no theme, no refinement and most fundamentally no character. ‘Gastro’ modernism in pubs can work when done well even if it’s not to everyone’s tastes; if you want to see it done in a way which is to no one’s taste then come for a pint here (worth at least mentioning that they do serve beer and apparently also coffee from one of those giant steam engines which no more belongs in a pub than a walrus belongs on centre court at Wimbledon).
The whole experience was comparable in pleasure levels to getting on a Ryanair flight where they spit in your face and call you a wanker as you board the plane.