When it comes to sourcing ingredients, Mr Robin Gill has a self-confessed “maniacal” approach. The chef leases a plot of land to grow food on a farm in West Sussex, harvests fresh produce and honey from gardens and beehives on the roof of one of his restaurants, and name-checks the country’s finest food producers. “It’s a 10-step back process,” says Mr Gill, who made his name running three critically-acclaimed London restaurants – The Dairy, Sorella and Counter Culture. “We go direct to farmers, fishermen and purveyors, and build up trust and relationships.”
Mr Gill’s latest opening is his most ambitious project to date. Darby’s is a sprawling space inside the city’s new Embassy Gardens development, complete with an emerald-hued oyster bar, on-site bakery (using organic grain flour from Gilchesters) and open-fire grill. It’s named after Mr Gill’s musician father, Mr Earl “Darby” Gill, and the interiors are inspired by his time spent touring jazz bars in New York during the 1950s and 1960s.
The setting at Darby’s may be somewhat grander than his other restaurants, but when it comes to the food, Mr Gill is keeping it simple. “The menu is about crowd-pleasers – think lobster rolls and oysters – done very well. It’s very product-driven,” he says. “A lot of expensive places are charging a fortune for mediocre crap. I wanted to go to great lengths to find the best ingredients and elevate them. So, there’s smoked salmon from Max’s Secret Smokehouse in Hackney, seaweed from Ireland, British caviar from Exmoor and Dooncastle oysters.”