Just doors down from Tooting Bec Underground Station, The Imperial Durbar’s weathered, turquoise facade and papered up windows have attracted local attention and curiosity and generated a buzz on Tooting Online among other websites.
Owned by brothers Nick and Alastair, the soon to be open Imperial Durbar is something of a unique oddity in Tooting Bec. Coffee bar by day and cocktail bar by night, the guys, along with a cracking team of baristas and mixologists, plan to offer up exceptional coffees and chais and drinks inspired by their time in India with a splash of Victorian London.
I was invited down (they’re literally around the corner from me… score!) for a walkthrough tour and a chat with the brothers. Plaster dust and loud banging greeted me as I stepped over the threshold of what could have very well been a bomb site–albeit a well organised bomb site!
Nick took me through the entire concept of The Imperial Durbar–a Victorian era Indian trading outpost with lots of little quirks and surprises awaiting visitors. Though incomplete, the brothers’ vision is anything but; they know exactly what they want and how they want it and they’re diligently hammering on to get there. The front of the bar will host tables and chairs along with a coffee counter and cakes made locally–ideal for commuters hopping on the Northern Line just a few doors down or for people wanting to stop in for a spot of coffee and cake.
While there I was treated to a bit of coffee sampling by their coffee consultant (how do I score that job??) Michelangelo. Trust me, the coffee will be exceptional if my sampling was anything to go by! Michelangelo certainly knows his coffee, even down to the correct brewing temperature (not one degree off, mind you!). He’s a master of his craft and The Imperial Durbar’s coffee is in good hands. Nick even goes so far as to call him the “Jesse Pinkman on the Breaking Bad coffee front.” Referencing Breaking Bad? That’s a tall order to fill!
I’m also told the chai is exceptional and will be one of the first things I plan on trying as soon as they’re open on June 9. I’m a chai lover and Nick assures me that the Durbar’s chai is nothing like chain chais and is slightly addictive! “Our chai, be it iced or chai masala will put us on the map as I haven’t tasted any better so far,” says Nick. “We have a cracking recipe that breaks away from using those sickly syrups which initially put me off the drink. As it is so fresh and light it makes it good for both the café and a great mixer on the bar front.”
Towards the back of the shop will be a couple of areas that can be hired out for private functions (my birthday is coming up… ahem, ahem) and a large seating area. There will also be a back garden which is already beginning to grow nicely with vines and passionfruit plants. Also in the back, the guys plan to have a telephone set up with a direct line to The Cardamom Club a few doors down, allowing patrons to order a curry with their drinks and have it delivered to their table. Smashing idea!
The Imperial Durbar opens on 9 June (and I can’t wait).
Mon – thurs 6.30 till Midnight
Fri 6.30 till 1am
Sat 8.30 till 1am
Sun 8.30 till 12pm