In August 2017 Tooting was named by Lonely Planet as one of the Top 10 coolest neighbourhoods in the world, along with Borgo San Frediano in Florence, Vestervro in Copenhagen, Botafogo in Rio de Janeiro and Sunset Park in New York City.
I will need to go back to investigate this claim a bit further, but if Imperial Durbar, the Indian cocktail boudoir which re-launched in September, is anything to go by, I can see why Tooting has come up in the world. This bar is a wonderful place to spend time in.
Just a few steps from Tooting Bec station, the new-look The Imperial Durbar is bringing a slice of Imperial India to South London. It is the first joint project of brother duo Nicholas and Alastair Heathcote who brought their marketing and hospitality management skills together in 2013 to create this iconic bar in the heart of Tooting which is heavily influenced by the brothers’ childhood spent in Asia.
The authentic interior boasts traditional fabrics and furnishings in a turquoise, mint and muted green colour scheme, rustic cabinets, sofas and tables all sourced from India and a wood burning fireplace for the colder nights. Themed rooms include the Indian outdoor inspired ‘The Durbar Room’- with arches that look out onto the Indian vista, and ‘The Library Snug’ – a space with comfy sofas floor to ceiling bookshelves next to the DJ booth. Or ‘The Office Private Globe Bar’, where there is something new to discover in every corner, from black and white photographs lining the walls to an antique typewriter and a gramophone player.
The large all-weather garden is a really lovely space with ornate flowers, colourful parasols, an elephant mural, terracotta tiling, bespoke hand-made Indian furniture, and a retractable roof that will keep guests dry and warm even in the winter.
Drinks are served from the Indian Apothecary station which features along with a splendid old cash register on the bar, all sorts of bell jars, kilners and pestle and mortars where Durbar’s infusion gurus use spices and herbs to create their own gins, spiced infusions and syrups which are all featured in the concoctions on the menu.
These include the six variations of The Imperial Durbar Giant Gins, all representing a different region of India and all served three shots of gin, tonic and an individual bottle of a home-prepared infusion from green tea, cucumber and mango to pomegranate and vanilla. If you know somebody who loves their gin & tonics, this is the place to take them.
The rest of the cocktail list is also very innovative and the use of genuine Indian herbs, spices and fruit will give you plenty of unexpected taste experiences. I also loved the ‘Pondicherry Sour’, a gin cocktail with grapefruit, grape and lime juices, vanilla sugar and muddled curry leaves. And the ‘Chaijito’, a Mojito with a distinctly Indian twist, made with white rum, chai, lime juice, coriander, mint and soda. I would have liked to try more cocktails, but after one giant gin & tonic and these two my limit for the night was reached!
Food can be ordered from The Imperial Durbar’s famed telephone box, which has a direct line to the Cardamom Club nearby, who will deliver their classically authentic Indian food in tiffin boxes to you. We got to taste a variety of curries and breads and they were soooo good!
At weekends a DJ spins chilled Indian lounge/house music and on Mondays guests can enter the quiz for the chance to win cocktails, Indian dishes and money from the rollover jackpot as prizes. The Imperial Durbar also offers a special curry & beer deal every Sunday, Monday & Tuesday evening which will include a starter, main, rice and beer for £12.50.
The Imperial Durbar
14 Trinity Rd
London SW17 7RE