Touting itself as an oyster bar, bakery and grill, this multi-tasking venue comes courtesy of husband and wife Robin and Sarah Gill, the couple behind some of the best restaurants in Clapham, including Counter Culture, The Dairy and Sorella.
Here they’ve moved a little further towards central London while still staying south of the river by opening behind Vauxhall’s all-new American embassy, whose coffee-savvy staff are already regulars for a take-out cup of Joe.
But the fame of the Gills’ previous restaurants means that Darby’s is also attracting plenty of attention from visitors for whom the off-piste location might otherwise be off-putting. The double-height room, furnished with rattan furniture and soft green upholstered banquette-style seating, was packed with a chatter-filled crowd on our visit, all settling into their surroundings with the air of excitement reserved for people who know they’re in the hands of experts.
You're here for the food really, but you’ll need something to wash it down with. A peach-based Joan Collins cocktail tasted like real fruit – a novelty – and wasn’t sugary sweet, while the wine list globetrots with confidence around the world’s major regions; we’d recommend a very good, light-bodied 2017 Domaine de L’Enclos Chablis at £13.50 for a glass.
Coming to the main event, the food menu is split into three sections – the oyster bar, first courses and mains from the grill. As in the Gills’ other restaurants, ingredients are only mildly meddled with to allow their quality to become the focus of the plate – the cooking or handling just acting as a little nudge in the right direction of delicious.
A sesame-topped, buttery brioche roll was generously packed with crayfish slathered in a roe mayonnaise that was spicy and salty; while a bowl of stracciatella di bufala, stone fruits and olive oil was fragrant and fresh, with a whack of bitterness from the oil cutting through the creaminess of the cheese at the very last.
We couldn’t see past the turbot on the specials menu, which came in its full and magnificent form, all crisp skinned and brushed with seaweed butter. Unable to choose between potato side orders, we ordered two – crisped beef fat roasties and seriously buttery mash – and didn't regret it.
To finish, we went with our friendly waiter’s recommendation of burnt honey cake, which arrived chewy, with almost toffee-like edges and a custard-tart middle that rendered it addictive. These are available to buy each day from the bakery – needless to say, we left with a boxful.