One of our favourite discoveries during a recent sojourn in London was a playful and precociously pretty cocktail bar and intimate 80-seater restaurant called Hello Darling. It can be found tucked into a four- storey building behind The Old Vic theatre on London’s South Bank.
From Darling & Edge, a team of theatrical set designers who have dressed a number of the city’s stylish supper clubs, Hello Darling draws a glittery pre- and après-show crowd. Reservations are a must!
Whimsical interiors look like something from a Victorian pop-up storybook. There are mismatched chairs, ceiling frescos, draped curtains, inventive floral arrangements (order your own from the flower menu) and bold artwork on the walls. And did we mention the private dining booths that are accessed by a tiny spiral staircase? Or the 360-degree cocktail bar, slapdab in the middle of the restaurant, where voguish bartenders are as watch-worthy as the theatre performance next door?
Creativity isn’t reserved for the décor. Chef Phil Smith’s rustic, small-plate menu sits beside a selection of killer botanical cocktails. Whet your appetite with the sexy raspberry and geranium sour or the sage-packed dry vermouth martini. Or, if you’re in the mood, opt for one of the Darling sharing cocktails.
Follow-on from drinks with date-night dishes such as blowtorched mackerel with dill and cucumber; soft-shell crab with yuzu and kohlrabi; asparagus, wild garlic and broad beans with pearl barley; and harissa quail with sumac and yoghurt. Finish by perusing the decadent dessert list, with rhubarb and frangipane tart, tonka bean chocolate melting cake and crispy nectarine parcels with lavender custard. Both entertaining and satiating. And almost everything can be made vegan or gluten free.
The building has several other floors, so plans call for secret rooms upstairs that can be accessed through a painting—there’s enough space for a full-on house party. Downstairs we’re told to watch for a dark, secluded club space, with late-night jazz or blues written all over it.