Daphne Rye was precisely the kind of person you’d picture a 1950s casting director to be.
She had a wicked laugh; held raucous house parties with her dozens of lodgers, directors and actor friends; and eloped with her third husband by driving all the way to Spain.
Said elopement hit a slight bump in the road when her husband started strangling the pet parrot, and she flew back to London to open a restaurant with her chums, which was naturally known as ‘Daphne’s’.
When Sam joined her, parrot intact, they fled to Spain once more and the restaurant – packed nightly with celebrities, actors and royalty – was sold off. But as with all theatrical legends, it lives on – now owned by Richard Caring (the man behind fellow luvvie haunts J. Sheekey and The Ivy), it’s every bit the flamboyant diva it once was.
Holding court on a chichi stretch of South Kensington lined with independent boutiques and cashmere shops, Daphne’s casts a warm, convivial glow onto the pavements. Inside, it’s a voluptuous extravaganza of crisp white tablecloths and marble-topped bars, upholstered banquettes and expensive woods. Waiters zip past tables with napkins overarm, and the clatter of wine glasses and silverware echoes out from the light-flooded conservatory for private parties out the back.
Daphne’s isn’t somewhere that will offer you small plates, adventurous ingredients or a thumping soundtrack. It’s somewhere to take the in-laws that has classy, old-school dining down to a tee. The dishes – Italian and generously portioned – are unpretentious and crowd-pleasing. There’s starters of garlic-slicked scallops and cheese-blanketed aubergine parmigiana; veal cutlets, market fish and lobster linguine for mains; and a glorious, diet-be-damned heft of classic desserts, from zabaglione to mascarpone millefoglie.
Crippling your attempts to pronounce those last two correctly is a long list of good Italian wines and boozy cocktails, from traditional martinis to gold-infused aperitivi.
You’d better try them all. It’s almost certainly what Daphne would have wanted.
NOTE: Daphne’s is open all day, every day, from noon-11.30pm (10.30pm Sundays). You can find out more, and make a reservation, HERE.
Daphne’s | 112 Draycott Avenue, SW3 3AE
Like classic restaurants? Peruse the Old Testament of our London Restaurant Bible