We venture in from the drizzle and enquire about a table for two. "Half an hour," barks the waitress before turning her back on us and scuttling off towards the kitchen.
At Daquise, everything is authentic, old-school Eastern European, right down to the service. We kill time in a pub filled with American tourists ("Do you serve half pints?," one lady enquires at the bar), watching as the weather yo-yos from rain to hail to sunshine and back again in the time it takes us to get through one round of beers. It's the kind of day that calls for plates of hearty, warming food and luckily by now Daquise is slightly emptier. It was shut for a refit a couple of years ago, but to my naked eye nothing has changed. It still has the same red and white checked wipe-clean table cloths, and the same shabby, comfortable aura. There are still a few old souls -- who came here long before Asda was full of delicacies from their homeland, and indeed probably long before there was Asda -- slowly slurping their barszcz (borscht) alongside young families of trendy South Kensingtonians in search of retro chic. The menu offers few starters and one token salad (chief ingredients: tuna, eggs, potatoes), but given the size of the mains I doubt many could manage more than one course anyway.
I have the pierogi, large dumplings filled with surprisingly tender meat, curd cheese or a mix of mushrooms and cabbage, and served with crispy bacon bits and a lonely tomato segment for anyone on a health kick. I smother them in sour cream and tuck in with relish, trying not to think about the bathroom scaled on Monday morning.
My friend is lured by the potato pancake (advertised as a house speciality) and opts for one served with Hungarian goulash. The pancake is huge, the goulash is proper comfort food like grandmothers/babushkas used to make. The only disappointment is the beer selection, featuring nothing more interesting than the Polish lagers now available in every corner shop -- why is that the more interesting beers from Eastern Europe never make it over here?
We are too stuffed to even contemplate the desert menu (which includes more dumplings). With a couple of the lagers, the bill for the two of us comes to a very old-fashioned £24 with service and we reluctantly waddle back out into the English "spring".
Conclusion: Not a destination restaurant as such, but a perfect place to refuel if you are visiting the museums and after some hearty comfort. Another good bet in the area is the Creperie, though it tends to be packed on the weekends.
PS Does anyone actually know what Daquise means? Seems an odd French-sounding name for a Polish restaurant.
Daquise, 20 Thurloe Street, SW7 2LT; Tel. 020 7589 6117; Tube: South Kensington