Test Driving Darby's - the Dairy gets fancy in Vauxhall

roomThe main dining area at Darby's. It's a bit fancy. We sat in one of the booths you can see right by the open kitchen. 

What can you tell us about Darby's?

The main thing is that it's the latest restaurant from the people behind The Dairy, Robin and Sarah Gill. They're backed up by Dean Parker, a chef who's been with them at The Dairy, The Manor and Sorella. Here's the restaurant is definitely on the fancier side when compared to its forebearers - plush booths, huge terrace and an impressive high ceiling. It has a little more in common (from a looks perspective) with a Caprice or a Corbin and King restaurant. 

Where is it?

It's in the new development called Embassy Gardens - so named because it's right next door to the US embassy and its huge moat water feature. That water extends as far as Darby's which has a stream and stepping stones in front of it (surely only a matter of time before someone falls in - it'll probably be us).

It's about a 10-minute walk from Vauxhall station - at the moment that walk is beside the dual carriageway but when the development is completed, there will be a much nicer walkway from the station that's reminiscent of NYC's High Line. 

poolThe pool at Embassy Gardens. How does this work?! We have so many questions. And no cannonballs allowed, we're assuming. But we do know that Darby's will be providing the food up here when it's ready. 

And there's something about a suspended pool?

It hasn't been built at the time of writing, but what's destined to be "London's most Instagrammable pool" is opening on the top floor - a completely transparent pool hanging between two buildings. It should be amazing (while at the same time not for anyone who has problems with heights). When that's built, Darby's will also be in charge of the food there - planning something with barbecue, and there will be a secret entrance to the pool through the restaurant. Definitely one to watch. 

oldfashionedThe Guinness Old Fashioned 

Where should we go for a drink first?

On the way to or from Darby's, there's one clear option to recommend - Brunswick House. We have to admit that we've never been to this Jackson Boxer restaurant and had an "oh, that's where it is" moment as we walked past. It's a perfect place to drop in for a drink and a snack - the ham hock crumpet was pretty amazing. 

But you should also get to Darby's in time to try the bar before you sit down - about half the space of the restaurant is devoted to the bar area. Their cocktails are pretty damned good too - we had an excellent pineapple daiquiri as well as the above Guinness old fashioned. Pair that with the following snacks to kick off your night here...

prevertsThe "Gilda", aka "little perverts" (£3 for 2) - these are eel (elsewhere these would be anchovies, we're much happier with this option), olives and chillies. A must-have while you're thinking about what else to order. 

oystersThe oysters at Darby's are wonderful - particularly the Dooncastle oysters, fresh from Connemara in Ireland. They're £3.75 each and black water wild oysters are also available from £2.75. It's worth propping up the bar with quite a few of these, we think. 

breadThe bakery at Darby's is a big thing. They'll be baking bread every day and you can take away loaves and pastries (you can also buy these after dinner if any are left). With a meal, you will want to order their sourdough and excellent cultured butter (£3).

Where should we sit?

You can head to the bar counter if you like a bit of counter dining - the best seats here are at the oyster bar, where all the oyster shucking is happening. There are a couple of booths near the open kitchen if you fancy keeping an eye on the action, and in good weather, the terrace seats are going to be much-prized. 

And what about the food?

We've mentioned the snack and oysters above, but also in this section are some cured meats and fish. The Dairy is well known for its curing prowess, so if you haven't been down to Clapham yet, you should try a few things from this section of the menu. The truffled arancini (£2 for 2) sounds like a good bet. 

As for the rest of the menu, it's a standard three-course affair, the pasta starters can be served main-sized too. The mains are primarily grilled meat or fish. The blackfaced lamb and the Highland beef short-rib sounds pretty good, and while we were visiting, there were specials of a whole turbot (£70) and a 1kg Highland rib on the bone (£78). 

Here's what we had on the night:

pastaThe Jersey milk ricotta agnolotti, Grezzina courgette and Nocellara olives (£13, or £18 as a main) - the pasta at Darby's is truly excellent so we'd say you should order this or the veal ragu pappardelle. 

bigotWhy yes, we would like cheese on toast for starters! Particularly when it's truffled baron Bigod on fig and walnut sourdough (£13). God's own toasted cheese - unmissable. 

lobsterThey also have their own lobster roll - this comes with roe mayo and has a great kick to it (£14). We also think the caviar with brown butter waffle looks well worthy of a go too. 

steakFrom the grill, this is the 400g sirloin on the bone (£30)- which if you've indulged in a fair few starters should be good to share too. Green peppercorn sauce or bone marrow gravy are options.  

monkfishFrom the dayboat fish section, this is the monkfish fillet, served with seaweed butter (£28). A truly beautifully cooked piece of fish, but we think this could have done with a sauce to compliment the fish. For a plain approach, the cod or turbot might be a better choice. 

potatoesThey have a strong sides game too - with these crispy beef fat confit potatoes being the main stars (£5).  

mashAnd because we don't think it's possible to order too many potatoes, this is the "seriously buttery potato mash" with bone marrow gravy (£7.50, or £5 without the gravy). 

And save room for dessert?

Absolutely. As you see from above, we may have gone a little carb-heavy, so it might be worth tempering that yourselves as there are some crackers in the dessert section. We were strongly tempted by the malted barley affogato with Tia Maria milk (£7.50) which still sounds pretty damned good - but in the end, we went for...

chocolateWe don't always go for the chocolate dish for dessert - but this Pump Street chocolate mousse with Guinness gelato (£7) was excellent. 

croissantYes, more carbs to finish, but this croissant with tonka bean ice cream sambo (£6) was pretty hard to resist and pretty messy to eat (but worth it).

How about drinks?

The house wine starts at £21 for a carafe (that's a Trebianno or a Sangiovese). There are plenty of options between £30 and £40, with wines split under headings like "easy and harmonious", "offbeats" and "iconic". But they're more than prepared to point you in the right direction if you ask.   

And overall thoughts? 

 If you're lucky enough to be living in Embassy Gardens, then you've got one hell of a local restaurant and bakery downstairs - we are extremely envious. If you're travelling to Darby's, you'll find a lovely room with a great vibe serving up the kind of food that the Dairy team have become famed for. And it's only going to get better as the rest of Embassy Gardens gets finished off. All this and a proper pint of Guinness make Darby's a winner in our mind. 

Hot Dinners ate as guests of Darby's. Prices are correct at the time of writing. 


More about Darby's

Where is it? 3 Viaduct Gardens Road, Embassy Gardens, London, SW11 7AY

How to book; via their website

Find out moreVisit their website and follow them on Instagram @darbyslondon.


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