One Fine Meal: King + Duke shines with a simple and savory Sunday roast

King + Duke's Sunday roast includes prime rib, roasted potatoes, spring peas with mint and steel pudding. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
King + Duke's Sunday roast includes prime rib, roasted potatoes, spring peas with mint and steel pudding. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

Since opening in 2013, the unique King + Duke has become one of Atlanta’s best-reviewed restaurants, with acclaim from Esquire, GQ Magazine, USA Today and Garden & Gun prominently highlighted on its website.

Created by Ford Fry and his Rocket Farm Restaurants group, the location at the corner of Peachtree Road and West Paces Ferry Road exemplifies a certain kind of power dining.

The wood-fired, 24-foot open hearth, which serves as the restaurant’s centerpiece, creates some serious ambiance. And the grills, which can be raised and lowered above the coals, imbue fish, fowl, meat and even vegetable dishes with distinctively rustic aromas and flavors of smoke and wood.

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Lindisfarne mead made a surprising pairing with the Sunday roast at King + Duke. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Lindisfarne mead made a surprising pairing with the Sunday roast at King + Duke. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

But, with a sprawling covered patio, and a lively bar scene, King + Duke is anything but fussy, fine dining. In fact, I’ve often met visiting friends there for drinks and a bite before a show at the Buckhead Theatre. A favorite on those occasions is the Duke, a big, fat burger loaded with caramelized onions and served with beef “dripping” fries.

A Rocket Farm veteran of the Optimist and JCT. Kitchen, Eddie Barrett returned to Atlanta to become the executive chef at King + Duke late last year.

Barrett is keeping up the tradition, offering the likes of swordfish with capers, lemon and herbs; smokebox chicken with salsa verde; and a bar steak with mushrooms and herb jus.

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King + Duke's popovers with cheddar cheese are a favorite starter. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
King + Duke's popovers with cheddar cheese are a favorite starter. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

“I’ve always lived by the motto that simple is better,” Barrett said during a recent phone call, “not overmanipulating the produce or the meat, and letting whatever we’re cooking speak for itself. We honor it the best way we can by doing the least that we can to it.”

On Sundays, the special focuses on larger proteins, like leg of lamb, that can be roasted for an extended period of time, and carved to order.

This past Sunday, I picked up roasted prime rib, served with minted English peas, roasted baby potatoes, pan gravy, and a take on Yorkshire pudding that Barrett calls steel pudding.

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Sticky toffee pudding is a dessert staple at King + Duke in Buckhead. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Sticky toffee pudding is a dessert staple at King + Duke in Buckhead. Bob Townsend for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Townsend

Credit: Bob Townsend

It was my first time trying the Sunday special, and prime rib seemed to be the perfect thing to feature. Barrett told me it’s tied and seasoned the night before, then seared on the fire the next day, and finally roasted in the smokebox.

The seasonal fresh spring peas are cooked on the hearth in a pan, with butter and stock, and finished with lemon juice, fresh mint and parsley. Similarly, the aromatic baby potatoes are tossed in a compound butter with garlic, rosemary and thyme, and pan roasted.

At the restaurant, the meat is served on a platter, with the peas and potatoes piled on the disc-shaped steel pudding, and smothered with gravy. Apparently to achieve the shape and texture, the pudding is cooked in a pan in the smokebox.

I was pretty proud that I was able to plate the dish in a similar fashion when I got it home. Each component added a surprising range to what essentially was meat and potatoes. And, all together, it was a near perfect Sunday dinner.

I also ordered popovers, which are a favorite starter, and sticky toffee pudding, a date cake soaked in toffee sauce that is a staple of the dessert menu. Both were excellent.

On the recommendation of beverage manager Clarke Anderson, I grabbed a bottle of Lindisfarne mead to pair with the meal. It’s a traditional, rather intricate, and strong fortified wine, made with fermented white grapes, honey and herbs.

I would have thought about pairing an English ale or a red wine with the roast. But, again, I was surprised. There are lots of layers of flavors in that mead. The sweetness worked well to balance the heft of the savory-salty meat and pan gravy. And, by the end of the meal, I had to raise a glass to Barrett and Anderson.

KING + DUKE

Menu: classic wood-fired food

Alcohol: yes

Recommended dishes: the Duke burger; hearth-roasted fish, fowl, meat and vegetable dishes; popovers; sticky toffee pudding

Price range: starters, $12-$23; dinner entrees, $28-$44; sides, $7-$14; desserts, $5-$9

Service options: dine-in; online ordering, with pickup and delivery through Door Dash; curbside pickup available

Outdoor dining: yes, a large covered patio

Experience: Meat and potatoes generally travel well, but the overall Sunday roast experience was great. One caveat, though: For curbside pickup, be sure to follow the instructions on the website, and call when you arrive.

Address, phone: 3060 Peachtree Road; 404-477-3500

Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tuesdays-Wednesdays; 5-10 p.m. Thursdays; 5-11 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays; 5-9 p.m Sundays; closed Mondays

Website: kinganddukeatl.com

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