As Vauxhall’s Embassy Gardens rolls up its sleeves for business, newly opened restaurant Darby’s is deservedly hogging the limelight.
On the back of his other Clapham-based neighbourhood establishments (The Dairy, Counter Culture and Sorella), this swish new Oyster Bar and Grill represents a journey a touch further east, and the latest in restaurateur Robin Gill and wife Sarah’s growing south-London empire.
Tucked just behind the statuesque new American Embassy, Darby’s is reached by walking over pretty, green, pond-scaped grounds, whose colours continue throughout the restaurant’s interior.
In contrast to Gill’s other smaller sites, here you can expect bright, lofty ceilings, lush hanging emerald foliage and sleek mustard-leather rattan stools, in a setting created by designers AvroKo.
With a notable sketch of a trumpet hanging over Darby’s open face kitchen, alongside other more subtle touches, it’s not hard to see the feeling to which this restaurant lends itself.
Based on the bars of 1950s Manhattan, Gill has dedicated this place to his father – Earl ‘Darby’ Gill – one time legendary jazz musician who toured the states throughout the 50s and 60s.
With this era as his muse, Robin has chosen to emulate its easy-going vibes, meaning that in addition to culinary prowess, the venue will serve as a place for live music, setting itself up as a local destination as much as a drive-to-visit treat.
Back on the food front, Darby’s specialism is oysters – fresh, salty, delicious saliva inducing, close-your-eyes-and-you’re-right-there-on-western-Ireland’s-Dooncastle-beach oysters.
These are backed up with salmon from Secret Smokehouse, an east-London start-up company founded after an initial foray by its current owners into both art and fashion.
Those keen for just a nibble might find humour and flavour in the ‘Snacks’ ‘little perverts’ – pinxtos billed as ‘witty and spicy’ and so named after Rita Hayworth’s character in the Hollywood movie Gilda.
Main courses involve grilling. Dexter beef, blackface lamb and a trio of day boat fish with seaweed butter fills the bottom left hand side of the menu.
We opt for the monkfish – arriving shimmering and served with a side of braised chard, nettles and pecorino (on a colder day we would have opted for the buttery potato mash with smoked bone marrow gravy).
The wine list here prompts happy perusal with something for everyone including quirkier choices like Cretan Assyrtiko or a chilled Chilean País – perfectly matched with our starter of beef fillet tartar, served with bone marrow and mushrooms – eponymously named after sous-chef Archie.
Cocktails are curated by The Dairy’s Wesley Yeung who shakes Manhattan soul into drinks that also include items like tongue-in cheek the Spud Sour.
These happily match also a series of fresh-to-decadent puddings – the blood orange sorbet drowned with ELLC vodka is a worthwhile livener.
Breakfasters will have further opportunity to frequent this happening spot with their offering of the on-site bakery, feeding a main part of breakfast time here – where full Irish comes as standard – Guinness is also on the aperitif list.
For further infiormation on Darby’s please click here.
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