The Darling Oyster Bar
When I was planning this odyssey, there were a few absolutely key stops on my itinerary and Charleston was one of them. I had been regaled for years and by many sources about how good the restaurants were in this South Carolina city. I had to find out for myself.
My first stop was for a much needed feed after a lengthy train journey from Richmond at The Darling Oyster Bar which was just a few steps along King Street from my hotel.
I found the place busy with people towards the end of their meals. I was dining late and this felt like an early dinner place.
Given the name, I was clear that I’d be starting with oysters so ordered a glass of bubbles while I considered the rest of their list.
It was impressive to see six different oyster varieties offered. It seemed sensible enough to try a pair of each.
Across Gulf, Bull’s Bay blades, single lady, Port Royal wilds, beausoleil and Quonset points, this was an impressive array, served with ginger, spiced tomato and horseradish on the side. This simple Gulfs were probably my favourite, but there was huge variety in flavour, texture, size and shape. It was quite the education.
For main I’d opted for a classic shrimp n grits. Topped with crisped brussels sprouts in a similar style to the sunchoke brulee at Siren, this was a hearty and flavourful dish with good cubes of country ham and profuse juicy prawns. I feel I’m yet to find the definitive shrimp n grits and suspect I’ll find it – if and when I do – in a place rather more down at heel than The Darling, but this was still a very pleasing dish and just what I needed after my tiring day of sitting.
So overall, The Darling Oyster Bar was just what I needed as a gentle introduction to the joys of Charleston dining. With a busy programme of stellar dining spots ahead of me, this was a useful benchmark particularly in terms of warmth of service and quality of local produce. I’d recommend it for an unfussy but classy bite.
Blythe scores The Darling Oyster Bar
4/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 15.5/20
I ate: oysters (gulf, bull’s bay blades, single lady, port royal wilds, beausoleil and quonset points); shrimp n grits
I drank: bubbles, golden ale, filter coffee, water
I wore: linens
Total bill: $74.93
Address: 513 King Street, Charleston SC 29403