Late Nights, Great Curry And Vintage Cosiness: This Tooting Bar Has It All

The Imperial Durbar ★★★★☆

By Lydia Manch Last edited 34 months ago

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Late Nights, Great Curry And Vintage Cosiness: This Tooting Bar Has It All The Imperial Durbar 4

The Imperial Durbar smells really, really good.

It looks good too, don't get us wrong: vintage Indian fabrics and paraphernalia clutter the warren of rooms — maps, books, mirrors and cabinets jostling with the gramophone, armchairs and fronded plants, like the home of a design-forward hoarder. A refurb and relaunch in September 2017 added a garden (with a retractable roof), cramming a lot of vivid lushness, greenery and ornate tiling into the small space.

But the smells. The Imperial Durbar is a cafe by day, the toasted vanilla notes of chai and ground coffee still hanging in the air by night. The evening drinks menu is based around gins, infusions and spiced syrups, courtesy of their behind-bar Apothecary station. Warm, tropical-fragranced ingredients creep into the classics, with mango, chilli and blood orange in the Ruby Murree and cloves in the Flashman-inspired rum cocktail.

This phone box is the key to curry.

Regular blasts of spice and richness start loading the air, as delivery orders from Cardamom Club arrive. The nearby Indian takeaway does a steady trade in tiffin boxes to drinkers at The Imperial Durbar —  orders placed by punters via an old-school telephone booth next to the bar. Stonking vegetarian options outshine even the buttery-thick chicken korma: the saag paneer (all bite, no squelch), and the humble-sounding Crunchy Chilli Carrot With Lime, a stir-fried heap of colour, fiery and fresh at the same time.

Open till 2am at weekends, it's not hard to imagine arriving at the bar planning just an early-afternoon sharpener, and rolling out in the small hours, fragrant with every spice, spirit and syrup under the sun.

The Imperial Durbar, 14 Trinity Road, SW17 7RE.

Last Updated 25 February 2019