I recently had a fun night out in New York City at the Darby, a supper club fashioned after those made famous in the 40s and 50s with their celebrity clientele, like the El Morocco. This updated incarnation has a swanky, hip crowd where media, fashion, and finance meet. Celebrity fans include Leo DiCaprio, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Ryan Seacrest, Charlize Theron, and Liv Tyler, to name a few.
The Darby, located in the Meatpacking District in what used to be the nightclub Nell’s, is the brainchild of Scott Sartiano, Richie Akiva, and executive chef Alex Guarnaschelli (the creative team from Butter). The space has an opulent feel, with dark-red, upholstered banquettes lining the back wall, oversized chandeliers, and antique oak chairs. The cabaret-style setting, with several tables in front of the stage, adds to the plush, heady atmosphere.
The minute you walk into the Darby, you feel as if you have been transported back in time. The lounge area with a bar is immediately on the right as you walk in. We headed straight to the bar and tried cocktails with names like Sunday Fizz, made with pink grapefruit vodka, and Spicy Dame, which is the Darby’s most popular cocktail (pictured) and is made with Belvedere Intense Vodka, mint, cucumber, jalapeño, and ginger syrup.
Once we were seated, our hostess adorned with blonde Heidi braids, explained, “The band will come on and sing in 20-minute sets, so you may want to order your food before they start—it can get loud.” We did, and soon after, the band took the stage.
The talented Darby house band includes lead singers Ron Grant and Lady Rizo (known as the House Mistress and always outfitted by Marchesa), who belted out a variety of tunes from Broadway and jazz to hip-hop and Motown. When Ron sang Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” it was an ’80s flashback. Now flash forward to today. John Mayer recently gave an impromptu performance at Gerard Butler’s birthday dinner. A few weeks later, Glee actor Charice Pempengco took the stage. Last Tuesday, Prince performed!
Seems there are celebs singing no matter when you’re there—or where. At one point, I went to the ladies’ room and heard singing in the stall next to me. The most beautiful, familiar voice. The bathroom doors swung open at the same time—and OMG, it was Mary J. Blige! I had interviewed her on the red carpet at the Gotham Magazine 10th Annual Gala. We had a good laugh!
The Darby’s food and service are very good, and the classic American dishes are made with market-fresh ingredients. Menu highlights include oysters Rockefeller and lobster Newberg. This type of heavy cuisine is usually not my thing. No worries—there is plenty of lighter fare. We enjoyed the tuna tartare with hazelnuts and hen-of-the-woods mushrooms, the mixed-shellfish platter, the grilled striped bass, and the seared filet mignon. If you are a raw-bar fan, the impressive selection includes several types of oysters (my husband Michael ordered the bluepoints and thought they were fresh and delicious). I loved the baked Alaska and the dark-chocolate soufflé for dessert!
Theatrical dining experience, good food, great entertainment, and Hollywood glamour all under one roof? Run, don’t walk—if you can score a reservation! —Melissa Meyers
246 West 14th Street (Seventh and Eighth)