Last night, your faithful Eater editors were invited to spend an evening at the Darby, the three month-old modern supper club owned by Richie Akiva, Scott Sartiano and Ronnie Madra in the former Plumm space. Expectations weren't running too high for what seemed to be a slightly gaudy, celeb-laden club serving high priced food to the beautiful people and a bunch of bachelorette parties. And the cool greeting of both the host and the fedora wearing bartenders didn't help things as we walked into the sparsely populated room, which was less gaudy and much smaller than the pictures make it out to be. Good news is things were about to get better.
At about 8:30, the Darby's house band made its first appearance for the night and frankly, they were really terrific. There are two different performers that alternate nights and do a short set every 30-35 minutes. Last night's performer, Ron Grant, sang some great renditions of soul and Motown classics, and occasionally went through the crowd to get the diners to sing along. It was very loud—do NOT come here to catch up with old friends or have a conversation—but the dining room was very into it.
Confirming its reputation for surprise celeb performances, guests were treated to Kelly Rowland from Destiny's Child grabbing the mike for a verse or two, bringing great cheers from the crowd. None other than Kool and the Gang were also in the house, but a spot on cover of Celebrate Good Times was not enough to get them on stage. Boo! We also heard Jeremy Piven got onstage to play drums later on. It will take decades to get over missing that.
As for the food, Guarnaschelli herself was in the kitchen overseeing the operation and proved herself quite capable of executing the menu. The prices are definitely on the high side of things, but one could assume that $20 apps and $40 and up entrees also cover the cost of the entertainment. What, you think Ron Grant works for free? Just keep in mind that Tomahawk steak for two will run you $100.
We also got a sneak peak of the Darby's still under construction basement lounge.
It's still several months away from being ready, but It will be ready next week and the small space promises to be a solid late night option with DJs after the music on the main stage wraps up for the night. A word of caution, the fumes from the construction were wafting up into the main dining room and bar area, an odor that does not mix well with dinner.
All in all, the Darby is a generally fun excursion in New York City, a place you would recommend for a group of girls trying to plan a fun bachelorette party or some out of towners looking for a unique New York experience like the Box is for nightlife or for the chance to see a celebrity or three. It may even be the panty dropping kind of experience that some proclaimed it to be.
The question is does it have the legs to stand on its own for the long haul? There don't seem to be enough tables or potential to turn them over three times to generate the revenue to cover the expense of having a band perform all night long (even with the prices). The crowd seemed to linger as long as possible to be able to see another performance, ordering another $10 drink that took 30 minutes to finish. People like that can't be good for business.
But that's someone else's problem to deal with.
· Darby Coverage [~ENY~]