If you might not be here tomorrow - what would you do today?

15 Dec 2023


Mosey on down All Saint’s Road in Notting Hill and you’ll discover a beautiful yellow awning inviting you into a pastel-hued restaurant. A Financial Times hangs from one hook, a tea towel another. Scandi accents of wood lining the interior, verdant plants tucked in corners and comfy pillows emit a cosy, eclectic, charm. Welcome to Ria’s. Where the vibe is distinctly cool without being at all pretentious, a place you can easily chat with friends in the evening by candlelight, whilst sampling a delicious Detroit-style deep pan pizza slice (think whipped ricotta and tomato and vegan nduja) and a curated selection of wine.

Without any marketing, Ria’s is swiftly becoming the beating heart of the neighbourhood, receiving rave reviews online and on TikTok. In just a few months of opening, it’s already having waitlists for dinner — routinely selling out of each delectable dish they make.


So, to what does it owe its overnight success? It’s more lo-fi than you’d would expect. There’s no Michelin star chef in the kitchen or sommelier who has trained for years. It’s simply the result of how husband-and-wife duo David and Ria (of which the restaurant has been named after) wish to run their business — leading with compassion first and foremost. Forget what you’ve seen in stress-inducing ‘The Bear’ or ‘Boiling Point’, Ria’s is more modern-day rom com than frenetic drama. “The name was my idea, I think there’s a lot of you in this space,” David says, turning to his wife. “The way you build this aura, your warmth…”

In a previous life, David worked in finance at Deloitte (“incredibly boring”) and Ria at health tech start-ups. They wanted to apply the progressive employee practices, which in most sectors are now standard — from mental health days, paid breaks, and regular progression meetings with managers — to their own restaurant business. Rewrite the hospitality playbook, one in desperate need of updating. “We realised when looking at the hospitality industry there was none of this,” says David, “the industry has been overlooked for years in terms of progression.” The decision was easy for the two of them. Ria’s would pay fairly, help employees progress, and offer proper holiday allowances and fair working hours. “When we told our staff they would have a monthly progress meeting, at first they were all shocked — they had never had this kind of face time before,” adds Ria, “I just thought to myself, how have they ever known how they were doing if their previous employers never spoke to them?”


Intimacy is, in many ways, the bedrock of their business. To create a homely atmosphere that could be a cute romantic, friendly or solo hangout spot. “Before I met Dave [six years ago] I was eternally single,” Ria says. “I used to love taking myself out on dates, going to a pub and reading. I wanted it to also be a space where people would feel comfortable eating alone, too, but also not spend a fortune.”

Though, watching David and Ria chat, laugh and easily interact with customers as they amble in for their evening glasses wine and pizza hit, one could never imagine the suffering the pair have endured to get where they are today. A reminder that everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about. When David was just four years old, he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, which massively affected his lungs and breathing. “[I] had to grow up quickly and think, OK, what am I going to do with my life? You've got a sense of urgency, a sense that life is quite fragile,” he says. “Life expectancy, I think, when I was born was about 27-28…I’m now 30 and thriving.”


Living by example of A.A. Milne’s counsel, one he quoted at the end of his wedding speech, that “life is a journey to be experienced, not a problem to be solved” and applying that to whatever curveball(s) would come their way.

In 2022, Ria found herself feeling “lost” after being faced with redundancy from a tech start-up she had seen grow from a team of 16 to 130 in the space of just four years. Whilst David was spearheading ideas for a new space, she was busying herself applying for product marketing jobs. Getting to a final-round interview and realising this was definitely not her calling — “I was like, I couldn’t care less,” she laughs — provided the final push to join forces and sign the paperwork on a lease with her husband. “I think both of us always wanted to make an impact,” David adds. Mere weeks before opening, however, they were confronted with two health scares, after Ria had to have an ECG for an irregular heartbeat, followed by a biopsy to check a lump in her breast shortly thereafter (it was only recently, after two tests, the results for the latter came back as benign).

Dealing with overwhelming uncertainty and personal challenges, whilst simultaneously following their dreams, has been a returning theme. Pausing never feels like an option. And really, the grassroots of their whirlwind professional success speak to the power of radical hopefulness over blind optimism. “It will be difficult but just keep your head down,” as David says. “Keep ploughing forward, and maybe something magical will happen.”