Here all the gourmets meet!:=)
The River Cafe
27 reviews of The River Cafe in English
I guess like a lot of folk The River Cafe, along with The Fat Duck, has been on our “wish list” for what seems like an age. The lovely weather at the end of March, the chance of a cheeky Friday off work and a little cash left in the bank meant that a long awaited pleasure could finally be realised.
The short trek, no more than 15 minutes at an ambling pace, along the Thames Path from the tube station is a nice enough way to arrive at the restaurant although I’m not sure the majority of punters would find this to their taste – we didn’t spot many of the walking classes on our visit.
When we arrived around 2pm we found that the gods were really looking after us when we were offered the choice of a table inside or one on the terrace which had a little shade to protect from the early Spring sun which was out in full force. It was a no brainer. If you are lucky enough to turn up on a sunny day and can bag a table on the terrace this is the place to be – the inside space is fine but I found it a bit uninspiring and lacking in “vibe”. It put me in mind of a canteen space – not surprising really as that was its original function for the architectural practise next door.
Once we were seated some very fine bread and the good looking paper menu arrived without much delay. We were eating from the set lunch menu, four courses for £39, which had plenty of mouth watering dishes on offer (much better than the choice of 2 starters and 2 mains which is what you often find on the set menu in “high end” places). After a bit of banter with the young, friendly waiting staff we felt we had enough information to go on and made our orders (when you have been waiting this long to go to a restaurant it can be a bit nerve racking making a choice – the last thing you want is to blow it and find you have a bad case of the dreaded food envy).
Perhaps it was the sunny day and the fine white wine from Sicily that we were drinking but this was a meal to savour from beginning to end. My lovely antipasti of chargrilled squid with chilli and rocket was tasty and perfectly cooked but was put into the shade by B’s choice of prosciutto with smashed broad bean bruschetta which was just wonderful.
Things got even better with the primi plates; my agnoli with rabbit, bay and pieropan soave was a dish to die for and the risotto con asparagi was simple yet delicately cooked and seasoned. The secondi had been recommended by our lovely waitress and did not fail to deliver: the Cornish monkfish with slow cooked fennel and rocket was perfection and the beef sirloin with salsa verde, cannellini beans and roasted medina tomatoes was a meat lovers paradise.
Despite being stuffed by this point we took a bit of a breather to finish our wine and soak up the atmosphere – service had almost finished and most of the staff had decamped from the kitchen to sit outside and devour a well earned late lunch. Their energetic and engaging conversations made a nice contrast to the two very well groomed ladies sitting next to us who had spent a couple of hours discussing central London house prices and their next rental investments.
After this short break we pressed on with some tart: pear and almond for me and lemon for B. Both were very tasty and went down well but if you are on a budget or have a small appetite my advice would be to have the antipasti and skip the dolci.
By the time we had finished our coffee it was gone 5pm, the sun was starting to lose its heat and the journey home beckoned. The bill was not cheap but compared to the a la carte menu it was a bargain. I’m not sure that I would have found this such a delightful meal if I had been dining at full price, inside the restaurant, in the evening but I would recommend this for a lunch date without hesitation to anyone who has a love of good food.
Comment 1 comment on this review
jurgenehre, 23 April 2012:
the river cafe menu and food to me is very overpriced. The location is great by the river but the ambiance isnt quite right. stuffy somewhat. I had the scallops, and at £33 this was well overpriced. dont get me wrong – they were tasty but not that tasty or filling. My girlfriend ordered a starter spaghetti vongolase for £15. again this is well overpriced and was pretty bland to be honest.
On a positive the staff were attentive and the food came on time.
I visited the River Cafe last week for lunch and I though the food was absolutely delicious and of very high quality. It’s the second time I have been and have been very satisfied on both occasions. I very much enjoyed the Chocolate Nemesis dessert, even if it it was quite rich.
My only criticism would be the price, with our bill being eye-wateringly expensive. The service was good, although I thought the staff could be quite intrusive at times but overall I have enjoyed my visits here and will definately return in the future.
We went here for a celebratory dinner and loved the ambience and service but the food was bland and mediocre. For what we paid it was definitely not worth the price of admission.
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River Cafe in Hammersmith has been opened in 1987, received a Michelin star in 1988 and has been an institution of the London restaurant scene ever since. A place every serious London foodie should visit at least once I finally made it there for a delightful Sunday lunch on a perfect sunny autumn day. The restaurant is difficult to find with a rather inconspicuous sign which is easy to overlook. If it hadn’t been for Ed Miliband standing in front and welcoming guests for his luncheon (NB: not me) – I would probably still be searching. It is good to know that our politicians appreciate good food, I wonder if this should influence my decision who to vote for?
Back to the River Cafe. As the name promises, it is located close to the shore of the River Thames, overlooking a greener than green lovely garden. I very much liked the atmosphere. It does have a Michelin star yes, but it is devoid of the pretentiousness that is often associated with fine dining restaurants. It is stylish but not over the top and I liked the busy, open kitchen and the big oven. This concept seems to attract a rather mixed crowed – young and elderly couples, families and groups of friends.
In addition it needs to be pointed out that they get my award (that I have just introduced) for the most sexy and best dressed waiters and waitresses. Ladies, go their nicely made up otherwise you might not have your partners full attention ( believe me, I speak from my own experience). Unfortunately the presentation of the food was not half as convincing. Don’t get me wrong, it all tasted very good, it just could have looked a bit prettier. Considering their prices you would expect distilled beauty on your plate actually.
I really liked the food but I was not blown away by any of the dishes. But maybe this was this is what River Cafe stands for – solid quality without major experiments and I actually left River Cafe perfectly content.
We started with Insalata di Polpo (13). Perfectly soft and well seasoned octopus generously drizzled with flavoursome high-quality olive oil and potatoes. I really enjoyed it but- you might agree with me – it was just not a very good looking plate of food.
The Insalata con Bortolotti (12) was absolutely delicious. The green salad consisted of a myriad of different kinds of fresh leaves and herbs interspersed with the warm beans and tasted heavenly.
For the mains we went for one primi and one secondi:
The Tagliarini con Granchio (15) were cooked perfectly al dente. The sauce hat a pleasant spiciness to it which worked well with the sweetness of the crab. Fresh dill nicely complemented this flawless dish.
The Branzino al Cartoccio (35) however was horrendously overpriced. It was really nice, but I don’t know how nice food must be to make you feel it is worth 35 pounds? The fish was of very good quality and cooked to perfection, it came on a bed of well-seasoned Swiss chard and fresh porcini. I would have happily paid, let’s say 22 pounds for it. I struggle with the 35 though. And if you say why do you choose such an expensive main, then I have to tell you that there was not a single secondi under 30 pounds!
We could not resist ordering the cheese platter (12) with a choice of 3 cheeses (sorry Chocolate Nemesis, next time!). Each of the three cheeses was utterly delicious and the serving was generous, more than enough for 2 people.
In summary I should point out that the green light for River Cafe was a tough decision. It is too expensive for what they offer in my opinion.
What tipped it in the end was that you CAN get away with a decently prized meal of very good quality: the starters and primi – even though not cheap – were not outrageous and they have a choice of wines under 20 pounds available.
My beloved took me here last night and my tastebuds spoiled, spanked and taken to the depths of foodgasms I never knew possible.
This was the culinary equivalent of a dirty weekend.
For a start it had a slightly strange location and was slightly out of the way and the surrounding streets were full of net curtains...
For the last 11 years The River Cafe has been on my list of places I have wanted to visit but have just never got round to doing. Now this has changed and I feel the restaurant more than lives up to it's numerous books and prestige that seems to go with it.
I love the fact that they are seasonal with the food and everyday the menu changes so it is a bit of pot luck as to what you will get, but there is definitely something for everyone, provided you like food that is and don't have any issues with gluten (well for the primi section anyhow).
To start with we had a Lampone, which was Prosecco with fresh raspberries blended in it. To say it was divine would be an understatement. The tartness of the fruit worked well against the sweetness of the Prosecco perfectly.
To start with I had the Chargrilled Squid with Chilli and Fresh Rocket. OMG I nearly died when I ate this. The smoky sweetness from the chargrilling of the squid was divine as was the subtle chilli heat. A squeeze of lemon helped activate all of these flavours all the more and the peppery rocket left a clean taste in the mouth afterwards. I liked that it was a generous serving too as one squid just wouldn't be enough given how lovely it tasted.
My partner had some crab, which was served with aioli and zucchini. The crab was so fresh and clean tasting and the aioli wasn't too overpowering. It was rather subtle and I thought it had wild garlic in but I could be mistaken. The zucchini were quite sweet but cooked nicely and the olive oil used to dress them was very flavorful but not overpowering. There was less crab than there was squid but at the same time it was nice to be able to share both - although I think the squid rules (but then I would say that as I chose that as my starter)
Instead of having secondi dishes which all looked very tantalising and tempting, especially the veal, we opted to have pasta as a next course. I had the Tagliatelle with Girolles and she had some linguini with olives and red mullet.
Both of these dishes were simple but they were beautiful and so nice and pleasant on the palate to eat. My mushrooms were served with a simple butter, sage and parmesan sauce that literally dressed the plate, pasta cooked perfectly and the whole dish had a delicacy about it. The sage wasn't too overpowering either but left the sauce rich and unctuous enough to not become sickly.
I have a small confession to make and that is I don't normally like Red Mullet very much. I feel it is one of those foods that became trendy in the early 90's and people say they 'love' it when in fact they just grin and bear it. I have been lucky enough to try it in some of the best restaurants too but by and large it doesn't do much for me.
BUT after having a couple of mouthfuls of my partners linguine I found my opinion changed a little but that was because you could tell it was very fresh, every mouthful the fish had been cooked perfectly and left a lovely clean taste in the mouth as well as a lovely mouthful of firm, fleshed fish that that beautifully seasoned.
I wouldn't order the mullet but would happily steal...I mean taste some from someone else's plate and I feel I now have a better relationship with it.
To finish we shared the Chocolate Nemesis with a couple of glasses of Moscato which went together perfectly like Mozarella and Tomatoes. In a visit to the River Cafe I thought it couldn't be done without sampling the Chocolate Nemesis as I have heard and read so much about it and I would say you must have it if you go there. Forget all the usual excuses of "I don't like chocolate" "I'm on a diet" or I think "I'll have some cheese" these are rubbish excuses!
For the record I am on a diet and I don't like chocolate much but if I am to choose a dessert containing chocolate then this is definitely the way to go and if you share you halve the calories! (Well that is the white lie I told myself) Still if you are going to go to such a wonderful restaurant such as The River Cafe your diet will go out of the window slightly. Although in it's defense I must add that I did step away feeling quite light and not like a beluga whale as I had imagined.
Now the bill wasn't causing too much need to remortgage in a hurry but it's not cheap. Most Antipasti and Primi come in at £15 and Secondi are mostly £30 but you are paying for wonderful food that won't leave you feeling that you could have had better out of a jar of dolmio. I must warn you of one thing, Italian food is never going to be the same again after visiting here. Other than what you get in Italy itself of course.
Service was friendly, and in some cases very friendly! I liked how attentive staff were but at the same time there wasn't a strong sense of table turning going on. But then to think in context we ate on a Wednesday night so I wouldn't know how it compares to let's say a Friday or a Saturday night. Nevertheless I intend to go again, as one visit to a place like this just isn't enough.
I can't rate this restaurant high enough!
Service, produce, atmosphere, flavours, wine, bread, pasta, dessert were all divine.
For the best in simple, fresh and exciting Italian, there is no substitute.
Go and visit the original - The River Cafe.
Full review on www.thehappinessprojectlondon.wordpress.com
If I had money, I’d go here every week as it definitely had the best atmosphere. Filled with interesting, media types, and celebrities (saw Jade Jagger having a ciggie outside); and with a buzzing atmosphere even on a quiet Tuesday night, we were treated like kings and ate a wonderfully simple, fresh, seasonal, Tuscan feast. Perhaps not as delicate or intricate as Chez Bruce or Pied a Terre, this is great Italian dining.
You are given a choice of antipasti, primi, and/or secondi, followed by amazing organic cheese or dessert. I chose as primi the risotto with langoustines, mint, peas and pinot bianco which was simple and delicious. For secondi I had the anjou pigeon which was delicious and heavy, but next time I’d go for the great-sounding fish – chargrilled cornish monkfish, turbot tranche, dorset blue lobster.
My friend's boss treated us to a bottle of champers as he had to work late so the rest of the bill was good value – about £75 each for 3 courses and a glass of wine with our cheese.
Absolutely delicious - had the squid followed by hare pasta and then the chocolate nemesis, all of which were delicious, particularly the squid.
We went for lunch on a Monday a few weeks ago and the ambience seemed like it'd be better suited to lunch than dinner. Service was a little slow as well, but as we'd allowed a few hours to eat and then walk back along the river that wasn't a problem.
The meal for two came in at £55 each without wine (3 courses each), which was about what I was expecting - not something I'd do every week but will definitely be returning as soon as I get the chance.
I was here not so long ago for a family do and boy how good food makes for a celebration. It was one of the best menus I've had in recent memory. Well worth a visit. Expensive yes. Worth it? Without doubt. Although that said the wine list is very keenly priced, lots under £50.
Took my husband here for our wedding anniversary and we had a really fantastic meal.
Superb service, great food, fab room, cool people watching!
Was jammed packed on a Tuesday evening, I can see why.
Will be going back.
Visited the River Cafe for lunch for the first time a few months ago and it was fantastic. My chocolate dessert was outstanding. I’m sure the garden is lovely in the summer but it looked a bit grim for obvious reasons. I will certainly be going back again.
Please note that I dined at the River Café prior to the fire so I’m not sure how much of this review will be relevant after the refurb. The Financial Times ran a promotion that allowed you to dine for £20 for a 2-course lunch. Considering that dishes at The River Cafe average about £11-£12 for antipasti and primi meals and £27-£30 for secondi meals and even factoring in that we were likely to get a reduced fixed set meal the offer was a very good bargain.
The ingredients in our meals were obviously of high quality but I felt that it was a little over-valued for very simple dishes. I couldn’t complain at all about the service we received at The River Cafe - it was impeccable from start to finish. They have more than enough staff to cover staff who are otherwise occupied - from what seemed like more than ten chefs and assorted helpers in the kitchen, to the multitude of waiters in the restaurant to the multiple staff at the front desks so no diner was ever left out on a limb. The attention we received at lunch was perfect. The restaurant ambience was very buzzy - the high roof top meant that it was very noisy from the chatter in the restaurant and therefore surrounded us with a pulsing atmosphere. The restaurant is long with the kitchen/bar running down one side which allows the diners to have some sort of involvement in their meal.
In all honesty this is exactly the type of restaurant that food critics live for - simple food with complicated descriptions and sky-high prices. Almost the opposite of what I prefer.
I have never really seen what the fuss is about with the River Cafe.
The food is a sort of pastiche of Tuscan/Umbrian cooking - way over priced.
A publication actually voted this the best Italian restaurant in the world which is of course a total disgrace.
The food here is not bad and ingredients are generally well chosen .
I guess because in general Italian restaurants in London or the UK are average to poor the River Cafe has thrived.
The food is not a patch or the recently opened L’Anima in the City or Locanda Locatelli and Enonteca Tui.
And if you are looking for pastiche I recommend Petersham Nurseries !
The River Café never let me down, before and after the fire. It is opened by Ruth Rogers and the new renovating is done by Richard Rogers. A superb setting with extraordinary food. The consistency of this restaurant is probably worth noting as each time I visited the place, I am satisfied. Although, it is quite costly but it is worth the money. The River Café will always be my choice whenever I need to impressed someone. I highly recommend this place. A 5-star rating.
I visited the River Cafe twice before the fire, but gather it’s now open again. It’s not easy to get a table, it does required some planning but lunch is a better bet than evenings or weekends. It’s a good place for a business lunch or if you want a good natter with friends.
The location isn’t particularly good for central London - you’ll need a cab otherwise it’s a hike from the nearest tube and parking around the place is rubbish as it’s all residential.
However, once you’re there you won’t be disappointed. River Cafe is famous for its fresh, seasonal, organic ingredients. The menu changes regularly and offers beautiful pastas and interesting dishes.
The bread and olive oil served complimentary was wonderful - we ordered several baskets!
I’ve never been here in Summer, but the large glass doors and patio area overlooking the Thames would be lovely on a warm day.
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