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Tuesday 4 April 2017

Darbaar in The City - The Thrill of the Grill Menu Reviewed

Name: Darbaar 

Where: 1 Snowden Street, Broadgate West, London, EC2A 2DQ, http://www.darbaarrestaurants.com/

Cost: Average cost for a 3 course meal is around £35 per person (not including drinks or service). Light bites cost from £5 to £8.50, main courses range from £8 to £28. There are set menus at £40, £55 and £65.  

About: Opened in November 2015, and run by Chef Abdul Yaseen from Jaipur, formerly Head Chef of the Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen, the restaurant is set in a modern commercial building behind Liverpool Street station. Darbaar aims to offer a menu inspired by the banquets of the Indian Royal Court, with signature dishes like hunter-style guineafowl, and spiced kid goat biriyani. 

The restaurant has a sleek design with grey slate flooring, bare wood tables and chairs, a large open-plan kitchen along the length of the dining room, and eye-catching golden lamps. 

But despite the lavish decor and the chef's pedigree, Darbaar's tricky location does not make it a restaurant diners would simply stumble upon. On the mid-week evening we dined there, the place was less than half full apart from two large and rowdy tables of City folk having an office night out. 

What We Ate: We opted for the "Thrill of the Grill' set menu, with 6 courses at £65 per person. The appetiser was a famous street snack from northern India - Tawa Hari Tikki Chat - a deep-fried green pea and apricot cake (£7), served on a chickpea curry bed with tamarind and yoghurt, pomegranate seeds and micro-coriander. It was crunchy and had a lovely zingyness from the tamarind and yoghurt. 

The first starter was a large royal Madagascar prawn with griddled king scallop and a fried wild mushroom, coconut cream, tomato salsa.  With a delicious charred flavour from the tandoori grill, and top quality seafood - this was a great dish. 

Next was Murgh Malai - a kebab of chicken in a yoghurt marinade, served with Punjabi lamb chops and coriander curry, served in a dinky copper and steel serving dish. The chicken was excellent - succulent and well flavoured, and the lamb was tender, richly flavoured and gently spiced. 

The middle course was Tawa Macchli -  sea bream in banana leaf, served with a tomato and coconut chutney, yoghurt and rice. I wanted to love this dish, but for me, the fish was overcooked, and the marinade (coriander root, coconut and curry leaves) under seasoned. The yoghurt rice was at room temperature and had a very odd texture in my opinion. 

Better though was the main course - Raan-e-Mussalam, a double-roasted leg of lamb, with potatoes. Slow braised, then roasted for a crispy skin, the lamb was served on the bone. The meat was superbly soft and well flavoured with tomato and Indian spices - coriander seeds, cumin, curry leaf as well as onions and malt vinegar. This was the highlight of our dinner.

The accompanying side dishes were a naan bread basket, a creamy daal of black lentils in tomato sauce, and cumin saag (potatoes in spinach purée, chickpea flower, garlic and whole mustard grains).

Dessert was Shahi Kulfi (Indian ice cream) with pistacchio and saffron, served with an array of lightly crushed fruits of the forest. Flavoured with cardamon, the kulfi was well made, and prettily presented with ripe fruit and a scattering of pistacchio.  

What We Drank: We shared a bottle of Alsatian Riesling from Arthur Metz 2015 (£40). With aromas of orange, mandarin and mineral, this was good but seemed a little steeply priced given its quality level. 

Likes: The Murgh Malai (chicken and lamb kebab) and the Raan-e-Mussalam double-roasted leg of lamb were superb. 

Dislikes: The Tawa Macchli sea bream in banana leaf needed a bit more development from my perspective. Tucked away behind Liverpool Street Station, Darbaar is a little tricky to find. It is a large restaurant, and when it is not full there is a knock-on effect on the atmosphere.  

Verdict: If you work in the City of London, and fancy some good quality Indian cooking, Darbaar ticks most boxes. Recommended.

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