Image courtesy of Sarah Gill.

Resy SpotlightLondon

Telling Their Own Stories: How Sarah Gill Keeps Darby’s A Family Affair

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Originally from Dublin, Sarah Gill is co-founder and one of the key people behind the highly successful and growing restaurant team, the Dairy Group, which includes the critically-acclaimed restaurants The Dairy, Counter Culture, and Sorella. Darby’s, the group’s fifth restaurant, opened in May this year; part grand brasserie, bar and bakery, it’s named after her husband Robin’s late father, a jazz musician in Ireland. 

Darby’s is in Vauxhall, on a gleaming new site opposite the American Embassy; it’s a spacious restaurant, with doors that open out onto a terrace and an entrance accessed by walking across a pond, on stepping stones. Darby’s feels grand, but is also incredibly relaxed — a place that could quite easily be your second home; it is akin to a French brasserie. Diners can have oysters at the bar with a pint of Guinness, or enjoy a very leisurely lunch; it has a corner of a room to suit any dining situation. 

What does Darby’s represent to you, and what makes you excited about this restaurant? 

Darby’s represents our journey, how we’ve grown — it makes me feel like a grown up!

We had a clear vision and to see it all working is mind-blowing. I think the team have really bonded and there’s always a sense of fun. And, in just a few months, it has really grown and developed. For example our bakery — we’re now supplying other restaurants and have a Darby’s van to deliver our baked goods.

Have there been any unexpected surprises in opening Darby’s?

It’s been wonderful to see just how welcomed we were by the residents and we already have lots of regulars. We have felt a massive support. 

On the opposite end of the scale, I was surprised at how insanely expensive the printer was, and that took weeks to figure out how it works — how Emma (Underwood, Darby’s GM) didn’t throw it in the pond I don’t know!

The plush brasserie-style dining room at Darby’s. Image credit: Nic Crilly Hargrave.

What is your favourite thing about Darby’s? 

I feel my late father in-law, Darby, would have loved it and that makes me feel so proud. I feel like Robin is working with his Dad and it melts my heart. I love the timeless feel that the restaurant has, from the food to the decor. We have a family lunch there every Sunday and I’m excited to go every week!

I feel my late father in-law, Darby, would have loved it and that makes me feel so proud. I feel like Robin is working with his Dad and it melts my heart.

What brought you to London in the first place?

Robin, my husband, is a chef. He got a job at two-star Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire. It was a minimum of two years commitment, so we moved.

Has your background has always been in and around restaurants?

I have worked in restaurants on and off from the age of 15. In Dublin I studied business and marketing, but work has always been related to hospitality. I worked as an event manager for an innovations company and a private members club in Arsenal FC, The Diamond Club. Plus, I worked at Le Manoir with Robin.

Image credit: Nic Crilly Hargrave.

What is the inspiration behind your work, and the different restaurants — as they are all so different?

Each of the restaurants have their own stories. The space has always been our inspiration, and the team we work with!

My favourite thing about all openings is seeing all your planning and hard work coming to life. When all the boxes are being unpacked, you are terrified and then before you know it, you’re open and see it all come to life. 

On a day-to-day basis I work with each of the fantastic managers, with weekly meetings. And of course, working with Robin and Dan Joines (Operations Manager) planning the next projects. My sister Julie has come on board to run the financial side, so it really is a family business. 

The restaurant is named for Gill’s father-in-law Earl ‘Darby’ Gill, a renowned jazz trumpeter. Image credit: Paul Winch-Furness

What do you find exciting about your job and the hospitality industry?

It’s fun, it’s creative — it’s my passion and my hobby! The restaurants and the teams are family to me.

It’s our life. Not everyone loves what they do, and I feel blessed everyday to love what I do and love working with Robin.

What is next on the horizon?

We have a few new openings opening – Rye by the Water is one of them; others – TBC!

I hope Darby’s will become an institution. The area is going to be even better in the upcoming years, which really excites me.

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