I am the sort of person that goes all out for birthday’s, since it is the only day in the year you get to celebrate your life – so do it in style. My older sister has just turned 25 (I know, she’s getting old) so I decided to take her out for some sibling time and an intimate celebration before she lets loose with her friends and family friends. No better way to celebrate than a well decorated restaurant, delicious food and divine cocktails, am I right?
We rarely explore the restaurant scene in East London, so I decided that it was about making exceptions and trying new areas of London. We also try and steer away from eating Indian food in restaurants, as my mum cooks it for us and packages it up, so we are never deprived of good Indian food. Another exception in play, I booked a table at Darbaar in Broadgate Circle, near Liverpool Street.
Set within an opulent setting, with draped curtains, tables set for fine dining and the most traditional decoration, it takes this restaurant to a whole new level. You walk in and you immediately feel special, because it’s definitely not a place you would take someone you didn’t love. It’s a special restaurant that gives you the warmth you would get from going for dinner at your grandmothers house. You can smell the essence of home cooked food, that your grandparent has been slaving over the cooker to make especially for you. I get that same feeling in Darbaar, the passion from the chefs comes across through the authentic food being cooked and the beautiful scents produced.
I arrived earlier than my sister, the birthday girl, so I ordered some two variations of popadoms with an array of chutneys. The accompaniments were served in small stainless steel bowls of mango chutney, sambar (which is a mix of pickled vegetables) and spiced tomatoes that had been tempered with mustard seeds. All three went so well with the popadoms, but my favourite was with the mango chutney – mainly because that’s the way I have grown up eating them.
When my sister arrived we continued to munch on popadoms whilst studying the drinks menu. My sister went for a Passion Fruit Tree which was a fruity and exotic cocktail that you would expect would be served in a coconut on a tropical island. I on the other hand, went for my classic, a Pornstar Martini and a very good one at that.
As we were looking at the menu, we were surprised by a deep a voice from afar saying “Aftab!”. We were greeted by the main man himself, Abdul Yaseen. Welcoming us into his restaurant, I felt like a special guest graced his presence and recommendations.
We ordered based on what he thought we would like the most, for starters we had Abdul’s platter of grills and kebabs. It consisted of an old fashioned sigri (coal stove) that had a hot black plate on top, serving up marinated halloumi, sheek kebabs, chicken and salmon in a coriander sauce. Everything on the grill platter was just gorgeous, so many flavours and a pleasant kick of chilli too. There was a home-made coriander sauce in the centre that complimented the succulent meat so well – it definitely reminded me of my mum’s coriander chutney. I am a huge fan of traditional Indian grills, because it isn’t something you can do at home very easily and it certainly doesn’t taste the same without the smokiness.
Chef brought us over some wood fired chicken nanza, which is essentially a pizza made on naan bread as a base. It boasted a lovely tandoori flavour and it was cooked to perfection in the clay oven pictured above with a roaring fire produced by the coal.
Another of chef’s recommendations was the kid goat biryani, served in a warm ceramic pot. I’ve always been a boy who can never say no to biryani, especially my mum’s. It’s a known fact that my mum make the BEST biryani ever and I am still yet to try one that matches hers. I said to Abdul, if I think his biryani is better than my mum’s, I will take my hat off to him. His biryani gave my mum’s a good run but it just missed the mark, a brilliant effort and a very good biryani but definitely did not steal the title of the best.
When it came to dessert, I surprised my sister with a little Me To You birthday cake, because it’s not a birthday without consuming cake… right?! We each had a slice of cake and mutually agreed that we had both been eyeing up the idea of Rasmali for dessert. We ordered one to share and it was incredible. Not your traditional Rasmali by no means, except it was mixed with what I would describe as kheer (Indian rice pudding) and falooda, another Indian dessert. Probably the best experimental take on Rasmali I have ever tasted – hats off chef Abdul.
Overall, we had an exceptional experience at Darbaar. My sister was completely in love with the decor, the food and cocktails. She literally couldn’t stop smiling with the exact words “I would pay hundreds of pounds to have this dinner again” – straight from the birthday girl’s mouth. The service was outstanding, including the the personal touch from chef Abdul too. I would most definitely return to Darbaar and I urge all my friends to go and try chef Abdul’s food for yourselves at Darbaar.
A cheeky little photo with the star and the birthday girl, I think the smiles on our faces just says it all. ☺️
Star rating for Darbaar:
Until next time…