No. 1 Duke Street is the Richmondiest place you can go for breakfast in the whole of Richmond, because while the food is excellent there’s also a tense, uptight feel to the place that no amount of complimentary cucumber water, wicker chairs and deep, soft sofas can mask. Like Richmond in general, No. 1 Duke Street is a place for people who think they’re pretty cool and liberal and trendy but would lose their shit if the coffee machine at Waitrose was out of order.
The food is good; great in fact. There’s a bacon that comes in thick, smoked slabs, streaked through with caramelised fat. It’s Ron Swanson bacon and it may be the best bacon I’ve ever had, or ever will have. The toast is good. The eggs are good. All of the sides — mushrooms, sausage, avocado — are good but also ruinously expensive, though you’re eating in Richmond so it’s probably expected that half an avocado should cost £4.50. The complimentary cucumber water tastes like the bottom of a fridge’s vegetable drawer but I guess it’s to somebody’s taste or they wouldn’t keep bringing it out by the bottle.
But while the food is good, there are also weird bureaucratic restrictions: choose the full English and you can choose from scrambled or poached eggs but not fried, and you have to have streaky bacon instead of the thick cut. If you want the thick cut bacon and fried eggs, you’ve got to order the ‘Grilled cheese sourdough toast, thick-cut bacon and fried eggs’. Just want fried eggs and toast? Well, you’re shit out of luck, because the ‘eggs and toast’ option again makes you choose from either poached or scrambled.
You can try and deviate from the menu and if you’re lucky there’ll be someone taking your order who doesn’t give a fuck which bacon or which variety of egg goes with which thing on the menu and you’ll get what you want. Other times there’ll be dark mutterings about how the operations manager sets the menu, and whoever let you freestyle before “should not have done that”. Breakfast with a vague threat of staff disciplinary action isn’t something I’m personally ever after but in Richmond it’s probably a refreshing little power trip for the sort of chumps who like to get testy with service staff over minor infractions.
With the combination of a menu regimen enforced by the Dread Operations Manager Roberts and a clientele from one of the most tightly-buttoned-up of all of London’s buttoned-up districts, the whole place is a JG Ballard novel waiting to happen and I sincerely hope I’m there to see it when it all kicks off.