After hearing such great things about Robin and Sarah Gill’s other restaurants: The Dairy, Counter Culture and Sorella, I was incredibly excited to head to their newest venture, Darby’s – That was a year ago (June 2019). After being served the best peppercorn sauce of my life and some of the best sourdough, I’m now a regular visitor to the restaurant, as well as it’s ‘Hatch’, made famous during Lockdown.
Unlike the other independent eateries, which are situated in established neighbourhoods, Darby’s sits in Embassy Gardens, a new complex in Nine Elms. The development will soon be home to nearly 2,000 apartments, beautiful landscaped gardens and a host of bars – Darby’s is just one step ahead. After being open just a year (May 2019) Darby’s oyster bar, bakery and grill has already turned heads, becoming a destination restaurant.
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.
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 Darby’s as ‘a club without the membership fee’.
I am yet to join Darby’s for breakfast, though I have visited for lunch and dinner, or stopped by to pick up fresh bread and cheese, and occasionally, I just go for a drink…. but we always end up getting snacks!
On my first visit, we went for a late 2pm lunch – mostly to make lunchtime drinking feel more acceptable. We started with oysters, both fresh and baked. The fresh 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.
Eager to try as much as possible, we then selected a series of small plates, including the smokehouse salmon, served with a warm and gooey brown butter waffle, cultured cream and topped with Exmoor caviar – I would eat this for breakfast every day if I could. We also tried the beef fillet tartar, and truffled Baron Bigod – a rich and creamy brie, served on homemade fig and walnut sourdough, topped with grated truffle. Our bottle of St Emillion conveniently arrived at the same time.
For the main, we both had 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.
As much as I love the food, what really makes this restaurant for me is the atmosphere. Though decorated in a sophisticated way; immaculate tables, grand furniture and hands on staff, it has this wonderful way of making me feel relaxed. One day I’m sipping expensive wine and tucking into oysters, the next, I am sat at the bar, feet up on the stall next to me, pint in hand, watching the rugby along with the lucky other South West Londoners who have managed to get a seat for the Six Nations.
020 7537 3111
3 Viaduct Gardens Road, Embassy Gardens, London, SW11 7AY