Friday, February 6, 2009

An organic pub and Rudolf Steiner

No, it's not some kind of strange British oxymoron and juxtapositioning. Yesterday Anne and I had lunch at the Duke of Cambridge, just a block from our house (note that the picture above was clearly taken in much nicer weather than we've been experiencing lately - anybody bicycling there would be taking their lives in their hands this week). The Duke is Britain's "first and only certified organic pub," and trust me when I say that you can't get bangers and mash there.

From the outside and in, it looks like any other British pub (ignore the quote from Zagat on the pub's website that calls it "homely but spacious" - that seems an unfair criticism, it was quite cozy inside). [Edited 2/11/09: See the fourth comment after this post about the word "homely"] But everything - and I mean everything (more about this later) - served and used is certified organic or adheres to established standards for sustainability and the like. Tent cards on the tables list all of their efforts and certifications and the year they were established (the Duke just celebrated its tenth anniversary). This includes things like certified organic meats and produce, all procured as locally as possible. All fish served are from sustainable stocks. The Duke serves no foods or uses other goods that have to be air freighted in, in order to reduce its carbon footprint, and they recycle far more than the typical restaurant or household. We did our part by walking there, of course.

The menu changes daily depending upon what foods they are able to obtain from their suppliers and at local markets. The wine list also changes regularly, and yesterday's introduction said that many of their wines come from vineyards "operated under the philosophy of the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner." There was more about this but Anne and I were laughing so hard that I don't remember exactly what a Steineresque vineyard was claimed to be. Who knew that his principles were being applied in more than just progressive education schools? The clincher for us was when we noticed that the Duke had supplied "organic tampons" in its loo (presumably just the women's) since 1999.

And the food? Quite nice; I had a lamb, chili, and carmelized onion sandwich, and Anne had salmon with spicy beet root vegetables (which, great surprise, I ate for her) and Bombay potatoes. My sandwich, like many of the dishes served on the board was served with "leaves," which is their term for a salad made up of foofy greens. I commented that the salad should perhaps have been more accurately titled "weeds."

I'm not sure we could appreciate or taste the true organic nature of everything we were served. But we sure did feel good about what we were eating. And in a bit of a note of irony, we kept seeing the kitchen staff pop outdoors for a few minutes. Yup -- they were out there for a quick smoke of what we were sure was organic cigarettes.


  1. My sister spent some time as an intern at a biodynamic organic farm following Steiner's agricultural principles. It sounded very interesting but a bit too astrological for my taste.

  2. Maybe should could explain it to us?

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  4. I received a very nice email about this post from a British academic, who explained:

    "The word ‘homely’ in England means ‘like a home’, and therefore invokes ideas of comfortable, warm and welcoming. To call a pub ‘homely’ is therefore high praise."

    I thanked him for the correction