Inspired by and named after the Royal Courts of India, at first look Darbaar is not as grandiose as you might expect. But it does have hidden delights.
The 220-cover restaurant is set on an innocuous corner of the Broadgate Quarter building in Shoreditch, close to Liverpool Street.
It’s the first venture from former Cinnamon Club chef Abdul Yaseen, so when I arrive my expectations are high.
Inside there are touches of princely pomp – eyecatching elephant sculptures, giant golden hanging artichokes and a smaller dining room and chef’s table for those wanting to hold court privately.
The main restaurant’s glamour is fairly muted with a paired back wooden interior and quaint elephant candleholders on each table.
But there’s nothing restrained about the cocktails that arrive. The Night In Mumbai sports a colourful umbrella while Mogli’s Temple stares at us from its squat green tribal glass, po-faced, like an irreverent court jester.
Unperturbed, we greedily gobble our way through a delicious platter of starters.
For a moment the fruity drinks and exotic flavours have me floating away to a tropical island, but a flurry of activity in the kitchen brings me back to earth.
It is open to the gaze of diners and you can see the chefs busily chopping, tossing and plating up.
There is something wonderfully relaxing and decadent about watching other people slave over a hot stove. Abdul, is clearly not a chef to admire from afar as he frequently mingles with the diners and has installed counter seating to give customers an even closer look at the cooking.
The food that comes gliding out from behind it is pretty enough for a princess – hot pink garnishes sit in the golden yellow sauce of a beautifully tender baked leg of rabbit, for example.
That’s way before you get to the stunning desserts, of course. A Valhrona dark chocolate and chilli brick with honeycomb icecream and the saffron and pistachio kulfi with marinated winter berries both glow like precious jewels on their gleaming black plates, garnished with regal purple pansies. They taste almost as good as they look.
Other dishes such as the refined but richly flavoured butter chicken are presented without any flourishes and look much the same as in my local curry houses.
But there’s one part of Darbaar where I definitely feel like royalty – the porcelain throne.
Stepping inside the innocuous looking cubicles in the washrooms, I discover a high-tech toilet with a lid that gracefully lifts up as I approach.
Once nestled on the heated seat I’m faced with an intimidating control panel. Its buttons say things such as massage, front, rear and dry. I try them all.
I’ll leave the rest to your imagination but suffice to say I leave feeling pampered from well-fed top to cosseted bottom.
Main courses at Darbaar cost around £17. 020 7422 4100