Darbaar has been running for two years now, a smartly decorated and large dining room tucked away down an obscure street near the Broadgate Circus development. It is actually between Snowden Street and Worship Street. This is a pedestrianised alley that baffled our sat-nav system, which was encouraging us to drive down it, which would have been tricky. It is certainly not a location that you are likely to stumble across by accident. Yet, just as at previous visits, the cooking of chef Abdul Yaseen makes the journey worth the trek all the way from west London.
The “nanza” starters here feature a topping of each chicken or paneer on a flat base of naan bread, an Indian take on a pizza. The toppings were both excellent and the bread had lovely texture (14/20). Spiced corn fritters tasted a lot more interesting than I though they might be, the batter crisp and the spices nicely lifting the flavour of the potentially bland sweetcorn (14/20). Murgh malai was served as large hunks of chicken on a metal skewer, placed inside a metal cylinder with charcoal at the bottom. This was terrific, the chicken gloriously tender and retaining a hint of smokiness from the charcoal, along with the spices of the marinade (easily 15/20). Scallops were served with wild mushroom achar and cauliflower puree. The scallops themselves were properly looked but lacking in sweetness, though the other elements of the dish were good (13/20).
Butter chicken was very enjoyable, the meat from a free-range bird and very tender, the sauce spicy, complex and suitably rich (15/20). On the side, cumin roasted potatoes were excellent, retaining their texture well and having nicely absorbed the flavour of the cumin (14/20). It is worth noting that the naan bread here is terrific, light, supple and fluffy, as good as any in London (15/20). Carrot halwa was topped with pistachios and served with figs. This was more a carrot cake than a traditional halwa but none the less enjoyable for that (14/20).
Service was rather chaotic on this busy evening. After some initial popadoms there was an overly long wait for the starters, and then while we were still eating these the rest of the dishes started to appear in dribs and drabs. The bill came to £55 a head with beer to drink. I really like Darbaar, which despite its awkward location is worth seeking out due to its genuinely excellent food.