SW Essex Pub Quest: The Duke's Head in Little Burstead

We are approaching Billericay on our quest. Things are getting posh. Pastel-coloured walls, wrought iron fireplaces. Scallops for a starter. A burger for £16. But, let us not forget, this is still south Essex; the music is a bit too loud, the bar focuses on lagers at the expense of ales. I don’t want to suggest this is a rule, but we are charged for a beer we did not order. Welcome to Duke’s Head.

That came out wrong. We liked it there. It just feels more interesting to highlight the quirks and imperfections, rather than praise. And praise Duke’s Head deserves: firstly, its location, by a narrow road in a woodland area between Little Burstead and Billericay, is nicely isolated from the noise and bustle of surrounding roads and towns. Secondly, the food, while pricey, is rather good quality. On the outside Duke’s Head looks like a traditional country pub. The inside decor seems recent, a bit rustic, a bit modern, not always tasteful (I’m looking at you, faux-marble topped bar). The view from the restaurant is the front car park – could be better, but the trees in the background make up for it to a certain extent. I’m not sure what the deal is with background music in pubs that try to give off the rural, rustic vibe, but to me it seems quite out of place.

Choice of real ales is restricted to two – Doombar and London Pride – but both are acceptable. There is also Adnam’s Mosaic pale ale, and that’s it for drinks as far as we are concerned. No bottled options to speak of. The choice of food, on the other hand, is wide, including an extensive vegan menu. The lunch deal, £13.50 for two courses, is a bit more restricted, but there are still a few options to choose from. For the mains Z has a veggie flatbread (not so great), I go for a wholefood salad, pretty good. The desserts – apple and rhubarb crumble and a warm chocolate brownie – do not disappoint. Despite the lunch offer it ends up quite pricey, including drinks, more than £30 for the two of us – even if we discount that extra pint, which got refunded in the end. Still, I am tempted to come back one day for a more substantial meal. Perhaps even that £16 burger.

13/08/2019