If you’ve heard of The Dairy, Counter Culture and Sorella, in Clapham, you’ll already have high expectations of Robin and Sarah Gill’s new restaurant, Darby’s – and of the four, this may be my favourite. Unlike the other independent eateries, which are situated in established neighbourhoods, Darby’s sits in Embassy Gardens, a new complex in Nine Elms. The new development will soon be home to nearly 2,000 apartments, beautifully landscaped gardens and a host of bars – Darby’s is just one step ahead. Having only opened in May this year, Darby’s oyster bar, bakery and grill is already turning heads, becoming a destination restaurant or as Robin says, “somewhere for life to be lived to the fullest, with oysters on ice, pints of black, freshly made bread and the best ingredients we have at our fingertips in Britain and Ireland.”
Exploding with character straight from 1950s Manhattan, Darby’s is inspired by Robin’s jazz musician father, Earl ‘Darby’ Gill. From the interior to the elaborate menu, which runs from ‘dawn ’til late’, the restaurant pays homage to Earl with a roster of live music and DJs. One of the main features of Darby’s is the large bar, lined with mustard leather rattan stalls, situated in the middle of the room. The restaurant is light and open, overlooking a beautiful garden, with a terrace for alfresco dining on warmer days. Designed by AvroKO, Darby’s boasts sophistication and elegance, with bespoke furniture and burnished glass lampshades.
Open all day, Darby’s attracts the morning commuters, stopping by for a coffee and a freshly baked croissant, as well as those from the local businesses, who descend on Darby’s for breakfast and lunch meetings, or as a quiet place to work away on their laptop. Robin thinks of Darbys as ‘a club without the membership fee’. He says: “The goal was to create a space for all occasions; business breakfasts, post work drinks during vintage rock and roll aperitivo, entertaining clients for dinner or treating the family on a Sunday lunch, and I think we have achieved that.”
We started with oysters, both natural and cooked. The natural ones were served with the usual; lemon, tabasco and a delicious homemade Mignonette pickle, while the cooked oysters were served with seaweed butter – we enjoyed both with a glass of champagne. We then tried the smokehouse salmon, served with warm and gooey brown butter waffle, cultured cream and topped with Exmoor caviar – I would eat this for breakfast every day if I could. From the small plates, we also tried the beef fillet tartar and truffled Baron Bigod, a rich and creamy brie, served on homemade fig and walnut sourdough, and topped with grated truffle. Our bottle of St Emillion conveniently arrived at the same time. For the main, we both opted for the sirloin steak, medium rare. I don’t usually order sauce with my steak but we were recommended by many that the homemade peppercorn sauce was a must try. Creamy but also sweet, I unashamedly poured the entire jug on my steak. Somehow finding room for dessert, we had the Pump Street chocolate mousse, served with a chocolate crumb and Guinness gelato, and the malted barley affogato & Tia Maria milk – simple but effective, the perfect way to finish a meal.
In a nutshell
Pleasant and friendly service, delicious food and unique style, Darby’s has it all. I particularly liked that the staff were happy to recommend their favourites on the menu and talk through the components of each dish. This is definitely a restaurant I would return to again and again. I’ll likely also turn up with my laptop in hand – no meeting required – just for the privilege of working somewhere so atmospheric and stylish.
darbys-london.com; 020 7537 3111; 3 Viaduct Gardens Road, Embassy Gardens, London, SW11 7AY