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River Café


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#1 Kikujiro

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Posted 22 August 2004 - 07:45 PM

The River Café seems to be off the radar here, perhaps because it falls in the gap between inexpensive and innovative, perhaps because pasta's for tourists, or perhaps just because it's been around too long. But it's still very good at what it always did – excellent ingredients well executed.

Lunch here today was great. I had a carpaccio of seabass (here strewn with some marjoram and I think mild red chilli); a summer ribollito (excellent if somewhat hefty); beautiful chargrilled wild salmon with fried zucchini; and a superb and enormous helping of summer pudding that apparently featured Valpolicella. Guest had a salad (dull choice but a very good range of leaves, many of which looked like they might have come from the garden); ravioli with chanterelles and sheep's ricotta (again, hardly unusual but nigh-on perfect); roast veal with borlotti beans and salsa verde; and lemon tart. Didn't try the veal or salad, but everything I tasted was spot on, perfectly fresh and immaculately sourced. Apart from the usual combination of peculiar guests and kids, the atmosphere outside in the sun, next to where the herbs grew, was idyllic. Really one of the nicest meals I've had in a while.

Came to £161 all in, which may not sound cheap, but it's only 20% more than the Farm would have cost without its discount, and the difference in quality and generosity is tremendous. I mean: six meals at the Farm or five at River Café? £6.50 for a drink knocked up from bottled juices, or a bellini from freshly crushed white peaches? Admittedly the friend at the other meal was a souse, whereas my guest today was teetotal and therefore a cheap date (I had the aforementioned bellini and a half bottle of surprisingly pleasant soave classico, per their suggestion), but if we'd both been drinking the bill for three courses would have been about the same. Gorgeous.
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#2 Kikujiro

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Posted 22 August 2004 - 07:47 PM

PS grouse hunters may wish to note it was on the menu – most expensive main by some margin, at 40-something quid.
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#3 yvonne johnson

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:24 PM

Sounds very good.

On its being off the radar, for me anyway, it's been around such a long time I never put it on the list of places to go (and we've never been). Funnily enough, there have been two recent articles about it in the NYT so maybe people are thinking of putting it back on the map.
It was not a new dish, as I recognised my tooth marks. Wilfrid

#4 Daisy

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Posted 25 August 2004 - 04:54 PM

I was there almost exactly a year ago for dinner and had a marvelous time. The food was very, very good and it was a lovely evening and we were lucky enough to score one of the tables that are right where the French doors open outside. It's a restaurant I always try to hit when I am in London.
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#5 Kikujiro

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Posted 25 February 2005 - 09:45 AM

Excellent lunch here on Sunday. Sourcing at the RC remains about the best I've experienced in London. Particularly tempting menu featured several starters based around veg, including a great salad of puntarelle (the tiny young shoots at the heart of a kind of chicory) with an anchovy dressing; agretti (much like monk's beard/samphire) served warm with bottarga; a superb winter leaf salad (reminder that salads are sometimes worth eating) with very good buffala; and cold langoustines with aïoli, the shellfish also of pristine quality.

Primi: risotto nero di seppie, something I don't think I've had for well over a decade making a welcome return, really impeccably done; crab linguine with a very pleasant (and not sure advertised) twist of fennel and fennel fronds; and orecchiette with mussels -- mussels very good indeed but by a notch the least exciting starter.

Mains included roast shoulder of Middlewhite which we were warned we might have to wait for, the shoulder having apparently been much larger than expected and taking a while to finish despite going in early that morning -- the result was undeniably worth it though; this was spiffing pork. There was turbot with swiss chard; rosemary-roasted (?) monkfish with various things I forget; pigeon. I had chargrilled wild sea bass -- a fish I almost never order these days, but this tranche of a huge specimen was nigh-on perfect -- with deep-fried baby artichokes and rocket.

Usual puds -- choc nemesis, lemon tart, another very good tart I forget.

We drank aperitifs of prosecco and squeezed (excellent, natch) blood oranges; and an Elio Grasso '97 Barolo, of which we apparently nabbed the last two bottles, and which was damn good.

Basically, still great. Mick Jagger, at next table, had also been there the night before. (No connection between last two sentences.)
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#6 ampletuna

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 08:24 AM

I wasn't prepared for how packed the place would be - down a residential street on a Monday afternoon - we'd have the place to ourselves, I thought. Oh, how wrong - it was heaving. Quite overwhelmed I was. The noise and very close tables were initially off putting; I needed the bellini to calm me down, honest. And what a bellini. Served in chilled high ball glasses this is like no other bellini I have had. The white peach juice is shaken (?) into the prosecco to give the drink a fabulous mottled pale pink hue like a sherbet drink for grown ups. Yum. The menu reads fabulously - bursting with seasonal delicacies such as zucchini flowers, purslane and girolles - the provence of the ingredients leaping from the page. OK bread was served as we pursued the menu, the olive oil it came with tasted as though it had just been picked out of the lawn mower, not good.

I started with smoked eel with samphire, fresh horseradish and crème fraiche. Simply presented as described on the menu, it was sensational. Long slices of smoky, oily eel with a generous pile of warm salty samphire, it was sex on a plate personified. Chris had mozzarella with salad of purslane, mache, mustard leaf, nasturtium flowers and aged balsamic plate. A gorgeous summer dish.

Secondi of Wood roasted Longhorn beef sirloin with baked borlotti beans, wild rocket and salsa verde allowed the quality of the ingredients to shine through. The beef was perfectly seared, the salsa verde a provided a gentle background note, not like the pungent nose tingling sauce St.John serves (the same could be said of the horseradish). Chris had char grilled leg of lamb with cianfotta of aubergine, potato, tomato and marjoram. Again, excellent cooked meat with a simple vegetable accompaniment.

Puddings of chocolate nemesis for the fat bastard and a selection of cheeses for me finished a fabulous lunch. With a decent bottle of Chianti it was £150. So, it’s bloody expensive but I’d go back tomorrow. It is very difficult to source this quality of ingredients in the UK and it is completely worth what you have to pay
Yes, I would not recommend smell, touch or taste when it comes to old cock selection. Opinions differ though. Adam 2/3/05

#7 yvonne johnson

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 12:47 PM

So you liked the eel, eh? The next we're over G and I will have to go. Sounds great.
It was not a new dish, as I recognised my tooth marks. Wilfrid

#8 Wilfrid1

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 02:22 PM

I have never been to the River Cafe. It sounds like they have figured out how to stay a fashionable destination long-term.
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#9 akiko

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 02:45 PM

It seems to cause polarizing opinions. Some people here think its just too expensive for what it is.

Me? I love it. One of my favorite restaurants here, I like their cookbooks too.

#10 macrosan

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Posted 26 July 2005 - 09:44 PM

There's little doubt that it is expensive for what it is, but the combination of cuisine, style and setting compensate for the price. I've eaten there twice, and found the food excellent. The waitstaff are charming and willing, but they mostly seem to be antipodean part-timers and not particularly knowledgeable or efficient.

A two course lunch with wine seems to cost about £50, which puts it in the Sheekey/Locatelli bracket. I'd say that the ingredients and inventiveness of cuisine are the best of the three.

#11 g.johnson

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 03:06 AM

There's little doubt that it is expensive for what it is, but the combination of cuisine, style and setting compensate for the price.

That seems to me to be saying that it isn't expensive for what it is.
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#12 macrosan

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Posted 27 July 2005 - 09:05 AM

There's little doubt that it is expensive for what it is, but the combination of cuisine, style and setting compensate for the price.

That seems to me to be saying that it isn't expensive for what it is.

:o The English language is quaint, ain't it ?

What I mean is that this is a restaurant in an out-of-town location which serves simply cooked Italian-style food of average size portions in a pleasant setting, and the service is acceptable. There are very many restaurants that you could so describe where you would expect to pay £30 for lunch.

What raises River Cafe are the ingredients, and the inventiveness of the dishes. What drags it down are sloppiness of service and limited menu choice.

The first two above appeal to me, and the second two don't worry me, so on balance I'm happy with the price. For many people, that wouldn't apply so they would consider the price high.

So that's what I mean :blink: And also, given the volume of business they do, and the relatively low staff and premises cost, they needn't charge those prices to make a good profit. But that's just a guess on my part, and it certainly wouldn't affect my decision to go there.

#13 macrosan

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 09:00 PM

I killed three birds with one stone today ... one of them literally :lol: I met an old friend I haven't seen for several months and enjoyed a delightful few hours of conversation, I had a great lunch at River Cafe, and I ate a rather good grouse :lol:

Having lunched here less than two months ago, I noticed for the first time how they construct the menu. They seem to have Dover Sole, Sea Bass, Longhorn Beef and Lamb Shank on the mneu all the time, but they keep changing the method of cooking and the accompanying vegetables. I got the impression that it's exactly the same with the antipasti and the primi courses, whilst from memory the desserts seemed to change quite a lot. There's nothing wrong with this but it would certainly dissuade me from going too often.

Today, as last month, girolles were everywhere included, and accidentally I had them again with both my starter and main course :lol: My starter was Tagliatelle con Funghi which was excellent in every respect.

Main course was grouse with g's and a very nice piece of grilled bread soaking up the juices. The grouse smelled a little high, but in afct was very mild. Really nicely cooked and presented, good texture but a little light on flavour.

Very pleasant Pinot Grigio, tap water served without a flutter, usual very good breadsticks and bread with olive oil, salt and pepper at the start. First class espresso. My companion selected a complicated order comprising two antipasti dishes and two primi, and the server organised a combination of hlaf-size dishes to suit, all without demur and with typical River Cafe charm. Altogether a highly agreeable dining experience for £65.

#14 alexhills

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 01:27 PM

Was here, for the first time slightly unbelivably, for dinner last night. Really very nice.

Antipasti were Langoustine - 5 lovely specimens, salt roasted and completely unadorned, Crab - white and brown meat, some spinach, some toast, and I had a salad of punaterella with anchovy. Mains were the veal stinco, bollito misto and I had grilled lobster with wonderful roasted endive hearts. In terms of flavor combination I think the bollito was the most interesting of these, wonderful combination of sweet fruitta di mostarda and sharp horseradish, but everything was absolutely first rate in both ingredient quality and cooking. The only thing I would criticize was a slightly heavy hand with the chilli in both my dishes.

Desserts were a lovely pear tart, the lemon tart, which had a beautiful topping but the base was a bit soggy, and cheeses, which were super, especially a somewhat brie like thing I can't remember the name of.

Drank very well too, Feldmarschall Muller-Thurgau, a 98 Barbaresco fom Nieve, nice and soft and not too much for the lobster at all if a little high on alcohol, and a bit of Bartoli Marsala at the end.

Really an excellent dinner, from an ingredient quality and expression standpoint I can't remember a better restaurant meal in this country.
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#15 yvonne johnson

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 06:52 PM

QUOTE(alexhills @ Jan 6 2008, 08:27 AM) View Post
Really an excellent dinner, from an ingredient quality and expression standpoint I can't remember a better restaurant meal in this country.

High praise. We've never been and must go on our next trip.

It was not a new dish, as I recognised my tooth marks. Wilfrid