Darbaar is an Indian restaurant near the City, opened by a previous Cinnamon Club head chef. It promises to serve up ‘royal inspired modern Indian cuisine’. So, we were expecting good things from this place, hopefully a banquet fit for a king.
It is housed in premises previously occupied by the Japanese restaurant Chrysan – a large, spacious and airy room with a long bar and exposed kitchen. Interesting, the toilets are also a hangover from the previous ownership – with deluxe Toto warmed seats that can wash and wipe your bottom, if you are into that type of thing… On the Saturday evening that we visited, the room was quite empty to start with but soon filled up, with quite a few big groups of people – others thought that it was a decent place to hold a party.
As we were in a large group too, we managed to try quite a few of the dishes following the doctrine that sharing is caring. The menu contains a fair number of classic Indian dishes but also features more Westernised dishes with some Indian flavours e.g. a hunters jungle spiced chilli beef burger and a Goan spiced haddock with mushy peas and chips. In keeping with the modern Indian restaurant trend, more forward looking ingredients were also included such game meats of quail and rabbit.
Some of the dishes we tried were outstanding – in particular, spiced sea bass topped with a shrimp sambhal, the quail and a baked leg of rabbit. The Keralan shrimp cocktail was a clever take on a classic dish. Paneer and a butter chicken curry served their purpose, although not in a way that significantly distinguished it from the multitude of other Indian restaurants in London. Although at least the ingredients were generally of good quality – this was abundantly clear in the cooking.
However, some of the dishes were a bit more ho-hum. Snacks (we tried gun powdered nuts and some crisp-sized pappadums with various chutneys) were fairly forgettable – not bad, but nothing really stood-out here. Calamari fritters were under-spiced and just a touch rubbery, and the briyani was a bit on the dry side.
Desserts were also a bit of a mixed bag. A ghulab jamun, the special of the day, was particularly outstanding – served in a cocktail glass and heaped on top of a shortbread biscuit and a mango sorbet – this was probably the best of interpretation of a traditional Indian dish I’ve seen. A pistacho kulfi was good – although relatively small for the price – doubling the portion sized might not have gone amiss. The chocolate cake was pretty much what it said on the tin – nothing particularly Indian about it, and not the greatest example of what a chocolate cake ought to be either.
One other weak point on the evening we went was the service – it was over-attentive at the beginning with the waiter coming a bit too many times before we were ready to order. Later on, it was actually pretty difficult to get someone’s attention and we were frequently trying to wave someone down to get them to re-fill our glasses, and eventually to pay the bill.
There were some highlights to the meal but overall, at this price point, there were just one too many misses to justify coming back here again, especially with an increasing number of modern Indian restaurants popping up. It may be possible with a bit better dish selection to come away with a more satisfying experience, but one would have expected a bit more ‘royal’ treatment from the whole thing.
A quiet eating 5/10
Dinner (average cost) was GBP30 excluding drinks and service.
1 Snowden Street