The Marquise of Daquise
I was brought up absolutely never to boast, show-off or name drop. It was considered quite ungracious and simply not the done thing, and I have passed this ethos onto my own children too. And yet, I am going to start off this blog post doing just that, not even discreetly but by the shedload, because I just can’t contain how privileged I feel at being long-standing good friends with interior designer extraordinaire, Charles Rutherfoord. (www.charlesrutherfoord.net)
Charles and I have known each other since our junior days at Christie’s auction house in St. James’s, which is to say, for decades. To be honest, initially my 22 year old eye fell upon him because he was insanely good looking and very stylish, as indeed he is still, completely belying his age. This, coupled with the mischievous twinkle in his eye, his grace and his superbly good manners, has sustained our friendship for so long and continues to do so. He is most definitely one of the precious gems in my necklace of life.
Originally trained as an architect, Christie’s was just the initial launch pad for his international career of stellar proportions, despite which he remains always modest and unpretentious. I adore him as a friend, but I also admire him tremendously for his outstandingly beautiful work and the sheer panache with which his every action is suffused. His and his partner Rupert’s house on an elegant street just off Clapham Common – you know the type, with narrow columns under a portico and a little horseshoe shaped drive at the front, the sort that most people would give their eye teeth to just own an apartment in- is the most beautiful private house I have ever seen. Charles is a man with the most harmonious sense of colour, design, space, light, furniture and art, throwing in a clever dose of wit with it all.
I could prostrate myself before so much talent, and I could certainly fill up an entire blog post describing the joys of his home. Can you imagine, in his library/music room/dressing room there is a raised platform with a sunken bath, underneath which a full double bed is hidden which can be pulled out like a drawer? Or an invisible faux wall housing a huge storage cupboard between his traditionally classic dining room, full of exquisite antiques, and his space age modern kitchen. His garden is enormous by London standards, and being a keen gardener and garden designer as well, he has created a cleverly thought out, seemingly unstructured oasis where 2000 (!!) tulips bloom in spring, a bubble shaped glasshouse and a modern statue of a bull (he is a Taurean, so another witty touch) gracing the back. It’s all just completely stunning!
No surprise then that this year’s May edition of House and Garden featured Charles’s home not only across eight pages but on the glossy front cover too. I’ll freely admit that it has pride of place on my coffee table and is ostentatiously displayed to every visitor who passes through. So, aside from a catch up and a good gossip, both overdue, we had plenty to celebrate. I can always rely on Charles to choose somewhere unusual or out of the ordinary for our dinner dates, and this he did, once again, in the form of Daquise in South Kensington.
How often must I have walked past this little Polish restaurant on cute Thurloe Street, right on the doorstep of South Kensington Tube Station and just a stone’s throw from all the museums? It’s been there since 1947 after all! This is where in the sixties, at the height of the Profumo affair, Christine Keeler and Yevgeni Ivanov, the KGB spy, dined. Roman Polanski ate here regularly during the making of his film Repulsion and Edward Raczynski, the President of Poland in exile, plotted to overthrow the Communist regime in his country. A blue plaque tells us that it is also right next door to the house where Dr. Margery Blackie, (4 February 1898 – 24 August 1981) practiced. She was a British doctor who later changed to homeopathy and became homeopath to Queen Elizabeth II. Maybe this explains the great age both achieved. We’re definitely immersed in some interesting history here!
True to form, Daquise, long and narrow like an early 19th century dining car, has a faded Middle European elegance and grandeur about it; somehow something very Agatha Christieish. You wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Hercule Poirot walking in. There’s no pretence or fanciness, tables are covered with paper cloths the old fashioned way, walls have the appearance of tobacco stained raw plaster, black and white photographs look like enlarged images of Polish army personnel straight out of someone’s family album, but there’s also an impressive chandelier and huge windows which allow light to flood in. It’s certainly different, in a good way.
On the menu are lots of hearty choices, Borscht, of course, and Pierogi, cabbage dishes and variations of pork with mash but also fish, veal, venison, rabbit, lamb and even goose. You’re spoilt for choice, if a rather meaty one, and you won’t go hungry here, for sure. It’s as if your old Babcia is working away in the kitchen to offer you a proper homecoming meal. Don’t expect to see alfa alfa sprouts, pine kernels or anything in a ‘jus’. It’s not that kind of place.
Charles orders a cold Beetroot Soup to start, with Pork Tenderloins in a Mustard and Honey Sauce, served with Silesian Gnocchi and Beetroot to follow. Seeing the size of the portions my table neighbours are eating, I’m a little more cautious and choose just a starter portion of Dumplings with a Cheese, Potato and Onion Filling.
The cold beetroot soup, of which obviously I have to try some, tastes heavenly. As gloriously pink as it is, it’s not overly beetrooty but cool and yoghurty. Perfect, in fact, for a summer evening. Charles’s pork tenderloin looks delicious too, tender meat pieces in a generous flavourful sauce, almost soup like, sprinkled with herbs and served with freshly made potato dumplings. My portion of six stuffed dimpled dumplings is lovely too, the filling super tasty and everything cooked just so. My word, the food is good here! Not nearly as stodgy as I had expected but filling, wholesome and highly satisfying.
The desserts have caught my eye, the Apple Fritters, perhaps, or the Jellied Raspberry and Vodka Terrine but we are both full to the brim and, quite uncharacteristically, I can’t manage a single bite more. Next time!
It’s been a fantastic evening of chats and happy reminiscences in excellent company. We’ve caught up on all our news and laughed a lot and now it’s time to go. Our bill comes to £53.30 including service, a glass of wine, a glass of beer and two espressos. Gentleman that he is, Charles treats me, then walks me those few steps to the tube station before making a stylish departure back to Clapham in his understated vintage sports car.
Daquise, 20 Thurloe Street, London SW7 2LT, Tel.: 020 7589 6117, www.daquise.co.uk
What I wore
White JBrand skinny jeans, coffee coloured satin shirt by Pure Collection, cream and white edged jacket by DKNY, nude woven belt, nude Kurt Geiger slingback heels, Hermes Birkin bag, hand painted by artist Boyarde Messenger.
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