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Username: mannion

Age: 47

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The Duke of Devonshire, Balham

Oh and by the way, I too am not a 50 year old cask ale drinker. I'm 30 and spent many happy years in my twenties drinking in the Duke. My complaints are not that of a stuffy out of touch old man. They are the opinions of someone with taste and respect for what had been there for a long time before.

14 Mar 2008 13:18

The Duke of Devonshire, Balham

Noodle65 I think you should step inside and have a look. I too thought that the Duke could do with a little re-furb. I thought the old carpet was a bit nasty, the large area at the back could've had some more comfortable furniture to lounge in on a sunday afternoon, the toilets could've been improved and a better food menu would've been nice. It's true that the competition from newer pubs like The Clarence and The Bowls club, as well as the newish licencing laws which keep them open late, have meant that The Duke has struggled since it's hey day when it was packed every weekend with crowds drinking and dancing till late. But what they've done to it surely isn't the answer. The general decor didn't need changing. The low tables with candles were really nice and in keeping with the atmosphere. The pictures on the wall interesting and unintrusive. The new high tables and upright stools and booths are ugly, uncomfortable and make the place look smaller and more cluttered. They'll never get back the crowds that used to dance there as there's no room to dance anywhere now. The art on the walls, the ridiculous lamp shades and the bizzare food serving chandeliers look like a designer with no taste and no idea of what the pub should be.
Why on earth strip away the greenery from Balham's only large green garden?
Why create a restaurant (with prices to match) when Balham is already blessed with many good restaurants. Gastro pubs are great but a gastro pub should offer good food at reasonable prices served in pub surroundings. Not overblown service and prices and the segregation of the drinkers from the eaters. That's the key to their success.
I'm sorry to go on about it, but I had high hopes for the re-furb thinking that one of Balham's finest pubs may return to it's former glory but instead I feel it's been laid to rest and replaced with something ugly, vulgar and embarrassing. I just hope that one day it will be stripped back and reborn.

14 Mar 2008 13:03

The Duke of Devonshire, Balham

I don't know where to begin describing how much I dislike the refurb of this once great pub is. The Duke of Devonshire (now simply called the Devonshire, as if it's trying to shed some of its history and tradition) used to be a great example of an old gin palace. It was a proper pub where you were guaranteed to get a seat and could feel comfortable relaxing in day or night, inside or outside in its great beer garden. I'm not sure I'll ever step foot in it again now that it's been redesigned by someone who probably failed his exams at the ikea design school. They've tried to keep some of the old features (which is a good thing) but have made them look out of place by contrasting them with terrible modern features. The giant hanging lampshades look cheap and ugly, likewise the furniture. The booths and the high tables and stools succeed only in providing a less comfortable environment which looks smaller and more cluttered. What was wrong with the nice old tables tastefully decorated with candles providing an intimate atmospheric feel? The enormous paintings on the walls inside and out in the garden are terrible and look like the work of a GCSE student who's been given the task of recreating a classic on the cheap. The long row of wine glasses and champagne buckets as you walk through look like they're there to impress it's customers but just look poncey. The nice old wooden bar has been replaced with a narrow metal bar. The new kitchen and food serving area is one of the strangest things I've ever seen, containing miniature chandeliers and being so high that they obscure the view of the blackboards advertising the food. The food is overpriced. The mothers day menu they were offering when I visited was 13.50 for one course. It might be good, I wouldn't know because I didn't stay long enough to find out. If you're charging that much for pub food you'd better be providing something pretty special. For a few pounds more you could get Michelin starred food at Chez Bruce, a short walk away. This is meant to be pub isn't it? It doesn't need so many staff in uniforms waiting to greet you and show you to a table and push their menu. This would be fine in a restaurant but the Devonshire is not a restaurant. At least it never used to be. I'm not sure what it is now.
The garden used to be green and inviting and the only good beer garden in Balham. But for some reason they've stripped away most of the greenery and added more of the cheap looking furniture. And now you have to walk through the new restaurant area to get to it and be accosted by over keen staff trying to seat you which just makes you feel like you're not allowed to walk through.
The wallpaper and the wall full of lamps look like an embarrassing attempt to recreate the trendy vibe of the Clarence over the road. But the Clarence understands it's customers, whereas the Devonshire seems hopelessly adrift, unable to understand where all the customers who used to pack the place out a couple of years ago have gone.
I don't understand how they can have got it all so wrong. All they needed to do to the Devonshire was remove the old worn out carpet and restore the floorboards, maybe get a couple of old sofas near the fire and a new chef and menu that raised the standards but remained under ten pounds per course.
I hope it fails and is forced to rethink things because it's a dark day for Balham now that the Duke is gone.

2 Mar 2008 22:39

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mannion has been registered on this site since 2nd March 2008