Darlo Country Club has been alive with a spirited L.A Hamptons theme for a little over half a year now, fitting out the former Victoria Room space with a bright, energetic bar and restaurant full of playful cocktails (like the Eton Fizz and Gentlemen’s Agreement) and indulgent bar food. It didn’t take long for them to switch things up though, dimming the lights and tapping the team behind Barrio Cellar and Fei Jai to help flesh out the menu and move towards a more sophisticated restaurant aesthetic while maintaining that youthful bar atmosphere.
With a commitment to refining their offerings so early on in DCC’s undoubtedly long tenure, the two teams have collaborated based on a recent trip to L.A, inspired to bring some of their favourites over to Darlinghurst. The result is a small, curated menu full of snacks, meats, salads, and seafood that caters to both healthier and more liberal diners.
The cocktail menu has changed a bit too, carrying over favourites like the aforementioned Eton Fizz and Gentlemen’s Agreement, but bringing in new signatures that are very flavour-focused, one of the better ones being the excellent La Cereza Ahumado ($21) which is a smooth, smokey blend of Mezcal Amores, Cherry Herring, pink grapefruit, cherry, and balsamic, making a sweet, nutty and elegant concoction. The Hollywood Sour ($19) is an essential choice, with Ketel One Vodka, White Chocolate Campari, lemon, vanilla, and chocolate bitters, as is the Bay Area Ice Tea ($19), served in a tall glass with Captain Morgan Spiced Rum, mandarin shrub, pineapple, lemon, pomegranate, and hibiscus iced tea.
The food menu is simple and features starters like the Tuna Poke ($16 for 4 pieces) and Steak Tartare ($20). The Poke is diced up Bluefin tuna pickled with ginger mayo and radish and served on dark nori crackers; sweet, crunchy, and zesty all in one bite. Even better is the tartare, which is generously plated with beef eye fillet that is chopped up, herbed and topped with a small quail egg, wet with celeriac remoulade, and complemented by smoked bone marrow that has been smoked with maple chips. The bone marrow has a deep oily taste, a chewy spread for some crumbly crostini, at odds with the sweetened, springy taste of the fresh tartare.
Having a bowl of Squid on Squid ($16/$24) on the table is a good idea for bigger groups. The big serving of soft and crunchy squid-ink battered local squid with citrus aioli is a good snack along with some tasty, but fairly plain Parmesan and Truffle Fries ($8). The best side option though is the Mac & Cheese ($8) which moves away from the excessively milky mixes of similar venues and brings in richer, bigger flavours with a chewy, crispy crust hiding that gooey blend of several cheeses including the almighty Gruyere.
Those looking for something healthier shouldn’t look past starters like the Pickled Beets & Crispy Quinoa ($14) which is served with baby cos, shaved radish, and buttermilk dressing, and the Grilled Chicken Paillard ($24), a chicken salad with a herb grilled breast, candied walnuts, crumbled blue cheese, diced apple, and Crimson grapes.
Moving up in size, there are the massive Nonna’s Balls ($17 for 3) which are made from pork and veal, lying in classic tomato passata with a big dollop of salted riccotta and three house-made herb foccacia breads. It’s a nice transition onto the mains, which includes the newest menu addition, Lobster Poutine ($24). Butter poached lobster is mixed in with french fries, gravy, and a rich lobster Gruyere sauce, a tempting dish and an excellent choice even though the lobster should be a bit creamier. The texture isn’t quite right here, but to be fair my visit was the very first night they had it on the menu. If they can whip the lobster into a creamier texture than this one is a sure-shot winner.
Until then, the best choice of mains is the Pan Roasted Sirloin ($36) seeing as DCC have the good sense to use Jack’s Creek Black Angus. Jack’s Creek were last year’s ultimate winners in the first ever global steak challenge, being named as having the “World’s Best Steak”, and that accolade is certainly earned as I recently found out on a trip of their farm near Tamworth. Ever since, I’ve kept a keen eye out for their beef, and DCC use their produce well here, keeping it simple with a beautiful rich jus and café de Paris butter. The result is a full-flavoured, thick angus that has got some of that truffle Parmesan fries on the side, which again are fairly plain but much better if you use them to soak up the jus.
Save room for dessert. The Barrio team have helped DCC recreate one of the most famous desserts in the world, inspired by Momofuku Milk Bar’s Crack Pie ($12) which sticks fairly faithfully to the original, served warm and balanced with cold buttermilk ice cream. The balance in the pie itself isn’t as great though, with an overload of sugar flooding the palate. Much better is the Spiced Apple Pie ($16) with vanilla bean ice cream, which comes with some dessert theatrics. Some Calvados is blazed with fire and poured back and forth at the table, creating a steam of fire that looks quite spectacular and will most definitely attract any roaming eyes to your table. The on-fire Brandy is then poured on the light pastry and cinnamon sprinkles, soaking through to the thinly sliced apples and creating a very comforting, rich taste that’s an absolute must if apple pie is your thing.
Darlo Country Club
Address: 235 Victoria St, Darlinghurst
Contact: (02) 9380 4279
Opening Hours: Wednesday 5pm-12am; Thursday-Saturday 5pm-2am