Daphne’s serves Italian food in South Kensington. (I like the name because Daphne was the name Jack Lemmon chose for his female self in Some Like It Hot, although Tony Curtis — Josephine — wanted to call him Geraldine. I know no one else called Daphne, and I do not need to. Lemmon sated me.) This district, you may recall, is currently a building site, as residents try to dream their houses bigger and their noses smaller; it is a tangle of cranes, personal trainers, tax avoidance, lipstick, adultery and Ferraris swamped with parking tickets. And so Daphne’s, which was a 1980s mini-series restaurant wrought from assorted Nigel Dempster columns and Judith Krantz novels, recently restored, now has the soothing grace of a National Trust interior.
It looks like an expensive jewellery shop, such as Graff, with its big yellow diamonds in the window, promising forgiveness like lumps of cheese: it has a pale gold façade with a rickety black gate and a delicate awning. It says, in pretty capital letters: Daphne’s. It reminds me, initially, of Monaco. Every-thing looks like Daphne’s in Monaco, even the servants.
I have not been able to establish who Daphne is, or if she even existed. A food blog says she was a theatrical agent but I do not treat the internet as fact because I am not insane. I sense she is a construct even if she was real, a comforting one for us flesh women: the woman who could not bear herself, and so threw a dinner party without end. Daphne’s was founded in 1962, hosted the gruesome puddle of sociopathy called café society, and was bought by Mogens Tholstrup, a ‘society Scandinavian’, in 1993; after that, said Dai Llewellyn, who knew such things, ‘I see him at the most exclusive house parties in the south of France and the smartest boar shoots in Germany.’