Nearly a year ago, I was sauntering by the abandoned Schertzo on Wellington Street, when I noticed a glint of life seeping out from behind the boarded up windows. For the first time since the bar had closed, the lights were on inside, and the sound of sober conversation debunked my initial fear that a downtrodden soul had broken in and taken up refuge. Over the next few weeks, my friends and I watched intently, giving random status reports on the progress we noticed at 207 Wellington. Soon thereafter, building permits and liquor licenses appeared, and an assortment of tradesmen could be seen working inside. In next to no time, the Iron Duke opened, and in less than a year, it has earned the top spot amongst Kingston’s oldest and most revered pubs.
The Duke was named after Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, who was once a General in the British Army, conqueror of Napoleonic forces, and two-time Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. He was an unpopular politician by times, to such a degree that his house was often targeted by mobs, which ultimately resulted in the installation of iron shutters, ergo the Iron Duke. Given the historical significance of the pub’s namesake, it obviously has some stately shoes to fill.
I can still remember the first time I set foot inside the Duke last Winter. As soon as I entered (pictures found here), I knew that this place was different from the other local watering holes. From the warm wood paneling that spanned the entire bar, to the exposed stone, comfortable private booths, massive LCD televisions, and fresh aroma (read: it does not smell like vomit), I knew that I’d be spending many an evening with the Duke. Like the decor, the food is also fit for a Duke and served by really friendly staff. On the surface their menu appears to offer the typical pub fare, but with selections including: sweet potato poutine, the morning after sandwich and Napoleon’s end, it’s impossible to have a bad meal here. Now, I have been called a nacho aficionado before, but this place honestly serves the BEST (note I capitalized for increased effect) nachos in all of Kingston.
As I sat down to write this review of Kingston’s newest British pub, I was a bit hesitant, as I want the Duke to remain somewhat of a secret. Sure it is a stones throw away from Princess, and only a few blocks away from the KRC, but that hasn’t stopped it from going unnoticed to many. There have been times when I’ve visited and not been able to get in, or sit down, but those instances are few and far between. So that said, although I would like to introduce you to the fabulous Iron Duke on Wellington, I would also ask that you guard it’s location, and only recommend it to friends who will truly appreciate all the little extras this place has to offer.