Grande Cuisine at Darby’s

In the shadow of the shiny new American Embassy in Vauxhall, South London, is Darby’s, a New York City inspired oyster bar which also happens to serve the best Guinness in town and timeless cocktails. It’s the latest restaurant to be opened by acclaimed chef Robin Gill – his others include The Dairy, Sorella and Counter Culture.

Maldon rock oysters, Cornish native lobster brioche roll with roe mayo, grilled Dexter beef fillet tartare, and pappardelle with veal ragù and gildas made with smoked eel (and called “little perverts” on the menu) are just some of the dishes served up by Head Chef Dean Parker and his brigade.

At Darby’s the goal was to create the quintessential neighbourhood joint with a menu that includes the finest daily bread and pastries, baked on-site using British heritage grains, uses the finest ingredients and, we would like to think, cooks them on the finest cook suite, Athanor.

The Athanor suite sits at the heart of the large, open plan theatre-style kitchen which was designed and installed in partnership with London based kitchen house Nelson Catering Equipment. At 3600mm x 1800mm the island cook suite dominates the kitchen and features an array of elements that allow Dean to make the very best of his ingredients. This is especially true of the meat on the menu, much of which is sourced directly from farms, bought whole and then butchered and aged on-site.

The Athanor suite itself features four 6kw open gas burners, a single 1/1GN multi-cooker which is an integrated ‘pan of water’ for chaufont cooking and making pasta, a single a la carte Plaque Athanor plancha, two 900mm gas solid tops, two roasting ovens set back to back, an overshelf for resting, a condiment rail to each side of suite and an inset specialist clay oven tower grill.

‘There are so many things that I love about the Athanor suite,’ says Dean. ‘For example, its design means that we can use one side for preparing hot and cold starters and the other for the numerous pasta dishes on the menu, as well as the snacks and light bites that we prepare to go alongside the Champagne and Guinness that we serve at the bar. Also, being an island unit, it’s really easy for the brigade to communicate from one side to the other, which is really important when the different sections need to liaise with each other during service.

‘The four gas burners are really powerful, so cooking on them is super quick and super easy, and the whole suite is just really simple to clean down at the end of the night. I would say it’s easily one of the best stoves I have worked on.’