Review: Bell & Brisket at the Duke’s Head, Highgate

Another pub kitchen streetfood residency. But wait, come back! This one’s pretty good

Kount von Kraut at Duke's Head. Photo: Stephanie Wolff/Bell & Brisket
Kount von Kraut on black rye at Duke’s Head. Photo: Stephanie Wolff/Bell & Brisket

Consider, if you will, who sells the best salt beef in the capital.

Is it, perhaps, the Beigel Bake, the populist choice on Brick Lane? Or are you more of a Brass Rail fan, the Selfridges concession that’s been serving up succulent cuts for over thirty years? Hipsters might even vote for Covent Garden-based Mishkin’s (from the Polpo group) which pairs the classic sarnie with cocktails and stylish light-fittings. And there must be at least one good beefy bagel in Borough Market; not to mention hundreds across north-west London as a whole.

Scrubbed: new exterior. Photo: Duke’s Head

And so to Bell and Brisket, part of the acclaimed Kerb streetfood collective, which pops up daily in King’s Cross. Starting life as a roaming van, B&B founder Bel Shapiro had a dream – as many others have in the last few years – to perfect one classic dish as best she can. That means curing brisket in brine – allowing the salt to break down the tough meat – while letting its flavours shine through.

As of late last year, Bel set up a now-familiar kitchen “residency” set up in just-reinvented Highgate pub the Duke’s Head. Run by ex-Southampton Arms deputy manager Matthew, the interior is similarly stripped back, although perhaps not quite as iconic: bare bulbs, wood, charcoal walls and antlers (no sign of an open fire on our visit, but we’re sure it’s candlelit in the evenings).

Decent booze, too: a good range of around ten cask ales, craft beers (including those from Camden Town Brewery) and a quaffable house red (we guzzled a glass or two). So it’s fair to say it feels fresh for “H-Vill”. Ahem.

Elegant: the bar. Photo by Gerard Ward
Elegant: the bar. Photo by Gerard Ward

From a shortish menu, on that hellishly rainy Monday before Xmas, we swung by drenched – and ordered two sandwiches. The Kount von Kraut (£7) comprised succulent “hand-brined” salt beef, served with melted cheddar, dill and garlic kraut on a Brick Lane bagel, with satisfyingly crunchy tangy pickles.

Meanwhile, the Baron Beethoven (£6.50) chucked in some vinegar-pickled beets and horseradish: dished up in a sturdier black rye bun – which really held the filling well – it just pipped the former to the post. In both, it’s worth noting that the flesh surrendered immediately, melting deliciously in the mouth. Greedily, we gobbled down moreish “naked” fries too (£2.50).

And this is where the fact that Highgate perches atop a steep hill comes in. Stretch your legs for half an hour’s anticipatory climb, beefy goal in mind; and enjoy a post-prandial roll back down, not forgetting to gawp at the view of London unfurling beyond.

Oh, and you could even speed the digestion up a bit with an espresso at the delectable Bread and Bean on Junction Road.

This is box title
The Bell & Brisket at the Duke’s Head at 16 Highgate High Street, N6 5JG. Lunch for two with a drink around £30. Kentishtowner rating: 8/10

  • Show Comments

  • Dogbreath

    ‘….an espresso at the delectable Bean and Cup on Junction Road’. Sorry to be pedantic but isn’t it called Bread and Bean?

    • Kentishtowner

      Amended. Not pedantic at all – thanks for pointing it out.

  • Gary

    Paid a vist to Bell & Brisket at the Duke’s Head yesterday and wasn’t disappointed. Who would have thought salt beef with pickles could taste so good?! The chips with cheese and horseradish are a winner too! The staff were all very helpful and friendly. We will be back!

  • James

    Stingy on the meat, when the key to a salt beef sandwich is having at least twice as much meat as you thought possible. Monty’s Deli still quite safe with the London salt beef crown. Compare and contrast with your portion-controlled N6 photos:

  • c cryne

    The Bulls Head has won CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) North London’s Autumn Pub of the Season. If you fancy joining us, the award ceremony is at 8pm tonight