A trip back to my old stamping ground of Brixton, southeast London, found us in the garden of The Duke of Edinburgh recently. Hidden away on a quiet residential street sandwiched somewhere between Clapham North and Brixton, the unlikely looking façade gives little indication of the enormous beer garden nestled behind the bare brick walls. Well, aside from the large “Secret Garden” sign painted on the front that is.
What’s interesting about The Duke of Edinburgh is that it was one of the area’s best-kept secrets when I lived there some 15 years ago but while Brixton’s popularity has sky-rocketed in the intervening years, this delightful watering hole has retained much of its original charm, no doubt largely thanks to its location well away from the main road. The clientele are a mix of old-timers who probably grew up round the corner, hippies, ravers, hipsters, yuppies and just about anyone else in between.
The unpromising exterior opens up into a spacious bar with quirky, retro décor and the usual stuff that makes a Sunday afternoon in the boozer so appealing – plenty of comfy sofas, a pool table, big screen, pinball machine and well-stocked bar. But it’s the garden that really sets the Duke of Edinburgh apart. With more than a touch of the tardis about it, the back door opens up into a huge space with seating for well over a hundred and masses of space for more. A barbecue takes centre stage by day, giving way by night to live music, DJ sets and lots of beer-goggled banter between the motley selection of drinkers. The huge outdoor cinema screen makes The Duke a top choice for big match days and any kind of major sports event, but just as it plays host to hundreds of excited England fans one day, it is just as likely to be home to a flea market or cider festival the next.
The welcoming atmosphere, great food and extraordinary outdoor space set The Duke of Edinburgh apart from its south London rivals. But it is its diversity – in what it offers and in the crowd it attracts – that makes The Duke a winner and fully deserving its place in the Room 101-102 Best of British – Beer Gardens Top 10.