Freshly baked buns, high-quality meat burger patties, hand-cut chips and a gob-smacking variety of burger options – even in the vegetarian section – make Dukes one of the most-loved gourmet burger restaurants in town. The Big Cheese burger features in our cheesiest dishes in Jozi list – and with good reason. Filled with mozzarella, feta, cheddar and a beef patty, as well as homemade gherkins and tomato relish, it is the creation of a chef who clearly wanted to find their way into our hearts – and it works.
Starters aren’t really worth lingering over. The focus here is on burgers. (The chicken wings, which the waiters swear are the best starter on the menu, are rather a disappointment). You are in gourmet burger heaven after all, with choices galore, including ostrich and lamb. Vegetarian options include vegan toppings such as tofu feta and Thai peanut soya sauce.
For the chilli lovers, there are a few spicy options, although the kick is rather tame and feels more like a nudge than the heat-induced kick you might expect.
A comprehensive drinks menu features some much-loved, but ubiquitous local wines – think Fat Bastard shiraz, Porcupine Ridge merlot, Rupert & Rothschild red blend and so forth. Craft beers, alcoholic milkshakes and royalty-themed cocktails all encourage a weekend lunch extending into supper. From the monarch cocktail selection, try Princess Di, which is a mix of Peach Schnapps, Mango Monin and pineapple juice and makes for the perfect concoction for a balmy summer afternoon. This is also a good spot for after-work drinks.
It might take a few minutes to find someone who works here willing to welcome you and offer you a menu. Luckily, there’s a pile of menus at the front of the shop. Grab one for food and another for drinks, then look for a table to seat yourself. Reasonable requests, such as for the Wi-Fi code, are acquiesced to with cold civility (and you have to give them your device for them to input the password for you). Also disorientating is the practice of placing unlit candles on your table during the daytime. Presumably for evening diners, it feels like a polite hint to make way for the next group of diners. Other areas they need to work on: neglecting customers for extended periods in between orders, clearing tables between courses, and refilling glasses as they run empty. Suffice it to say, the service would leave a permanently bad taste, were it not for the efforts of the chef to make polite and friendly inquiries about the food and your wellbeing when she makes an appearance every now and then from the kitchen.
What Dukes greatly lacks in customer service, it makes up for in food, music, and décor. The establishment takes the gourmet burger idea – an oxymoron, of sorts (although the Capetonians don’t flinch at it, having had years to perfect this on Long Street) – to the next level. The décor is a grand parody of regality, with some chairs even imitating the shape of a throne. It’s fun and tongue-in-cheek, yet still quite chic. The garden takes on a life of its own, with a vibrancy in summer that’s so typically Greenside: down to earth, easy and intimate. It’s a space for deep, meaningful conversations, punctuated with long comfortable silences that allow pauses to enjoy the music – which is so good that, even if you’re dining alone, it will cast a spell on you and make you reluctant to leave.
There’s an upstairs seating area that can accommodate up to 50 people for private events.
Eat Out critics dine unannounced and pay for their meals in full. Read our full editorial policy here.