“The Duke was never, is not and will never be about one thing only. It is not food only, not service only, not ambience only, not location only. It is about the forceless and playful balance of all those qualities that are all wrapped up and compressed in this whole in the wall on calle Soler 36. It seems like everyday, everything falls into place perfectly”
The first time I was in Duke, it was almost 6 years ago. My friend who lives in Palma de Mallorca insisted that we had my farewell dinner there. Back then I was not involved with food the way I am now, and I hate that I wasn’t paying enough attention; however, I was human enough to be absolutely amazed by their Thai salad (mango, peanuts, coriander, lime, chili and duck). I didn’t take any pictures of the food, but I did share on my Instagram their beautiful small bar:
In 2018, it was me who insisted we went to Duke again during my visit to Palma. We tried to make a reservation for dinner but it was fully booked 9 hours in advance. Ok. We showed up for lunch the next day at 1:05 pm: they had opened 5 minutes before and there was already a small crowd.
The interior looked exactly the same, and this I can prove, because I took the same picture 6 years later:
Now I can say that I’ve been to Duke several times. Looking around and doing a bit of people-watching, I can tell the public is a cheerful mix of expats who have become habitués, enthusiastic tourists who read the impeccable reviews somewhere; and the more open-minded locals who come here looking to taste the world. One day, I got it:
It’s not just about the food.
The place is small and every detail is placed to make you feel exactly how they want you to feel and transmit a deliberate vibe: pictures of surfers in golden sunsets, book corners, American classics on loop through the speakers, someone’s dog sleeping on the floor. You just want to wear your flip-flops immediately and play the ukulele. You feel good. Still, I’ve got to say, this set-up doesn’t feel pretentious or forced, like it usually happens in other restaurants using this technique.
The movie plot is basically this: A marine biologist / surfer meets a chef with a Michelin background and Greek blood. They start something beautiful and unstoppable.
You can sense that there is a philosophy behind their restaurant, beyond food (By the way, you should read Ronny’s blog -the chef- for some real insights about the foodie industry)
Oh, but it is about the food.
Luckily, now that I’m back at The Duke I am very well prepared to share my full experience with you.
Duke is not expensive (well, considering…). You can even get an affordable lunch formula that changes everyday, with dishes off-menu. For example I tried this shrimp gazpacho with mango, cucumber, ginger and lemongrass (absolutely superb!)
But I wanted to try more things from their actual menu, so I ordered the fish tacos: tropical, tasty, reminded me a bit of Venezuelan Fish mojito (no, not the drink) and served with a spicy sauce, on point.
I was surprised to discover that at The Duke’s kitchen, butter, cream, and artificial ingredients of any kind are banned for good.
“Our products come from farmers we know, our meats from butchers who care, our fish from sustainable fishing areas in the Mediterranean and our wines from the finest bodegas in Spain.”
On another occasion I had their majestic Ceviche. One of the best ceviches I’ve had, including those I tried in the streets of Lima, which are kind of hard to top: Super fresh sea bass, avocado, tomato, onion and coriander… all this on top of a pretty green pea soup. All kinds of emotions: sweet at times, bitter at times. The kind of happiness that’s not overwhelming, but rather simple and calming. Also the kind of happiness that’s hard to describe.
To me, this is not just another “fusion” restaurant (God I hate that word) taking advantage of those international dishes where you can’t go wrong. Yes, they have ceviche and tacos, but they add a bit of their own each time, the necessary, wonderful bit.
Ok but back to the food.
I wanted to taste the “greeker” side of the kitchen, and then again, just perfect. So savory and perfectly mixing the Mediterranean with the East.
And to close the perfect circle, the photo of that salad I had the first time, years ago, the one that started all of this, yes, I give you the beautiful Duke Thai Salad:
If someone asked me why go to Duke, I would just say: the food is good. Sorry, I don’t have much more than that. It’s not an impressive answer, but you know what’s impressive? The fact that I can answer this to anyone, anytime, with the absolute certainty that it is true and they will enjoy it.
Well, maybe I would also share the link to this post.