There’s not a great deal that I can add to the commentary on the River Café, Thames Wharf, London. Any words that are written here can hardly do justice to this dining institution. For almost as long as I have been cooking I have owned the original blue covered cookbook from this restaurant. I would often flick the pages looking for inspiration, ideas, recipes and an understanding of what this place was about, failing initially to grasp the simplicity of the food that stared back at me. How could this be, given the back drop of the 1990's food from such chefs as Marco Pierre Whites modern French, Tetsuya’s, Japanese French and Neil Perry’s Modern Australian at the original Rockpool. But as many of these chefs and restaurants have faded into the tapestry of the past, the River Café stays in the present, persists and shines.
The food here is rustic yet elegant, simple yet complex and plated in such a way as to defy the logic that anything this simple could look so good on a simple white plate. This is not the raw and brutal Italian, of Bucca di Lupo or the elegance of Giorgio Locatelli in Westminster. It is a combination of the two, the original. Feminine, beautiful, balanced and perfectly simple. Impeccable ingredients, impeccably cooked and plated. There is a true feeling of inclusiveness and love in this restaurant that comes though with each plate, the service and the staff. Dining here was timeless. Food and wine came at a steady pace, almost without effort, a gentle warmness encompassed the room, the world meandered along the Thames, off duty staff could be glimpsed in the garden eating the staff meal. The true joy of the Italian table.
Above Primi : Spaghetti- red mullet, zucchini, zucchini flowers and chilli 23 pounds
Dining on a Monday lunch on a greyish London summer’s day the long sleek open dining room was groaning with families, groups and couples. Presented with the day’s menus we preceded to enjoy three wonderfully seasonally inspired courses, that we in all honestly quite hard to fault. The river café is summed up by the iconic chocolate nemesis, presented unadorned other than a “blob” of crème fraiche, pure simplicity with superb technique and never ending amount of generosity.
Above Antipasti : Carpaccio di Manzo thinly sliced beef with Harrys bar dressing 23 pounds
Primi: Risotto ai Funghi- summer girolles, vermouth, parsley and parmesan 22 pounds
Above Secondi : Coscia d'Agnello ai ferri - chargrilled marinated leg of lamb with roasted beetroots, rainbow chard and fresh horse radish. 40 pounds
Secondi: Rombo al forno - turbot tranche wood roasted with marjoram and lemon with stato di peperoni al vino rosso 41 pounds
Antipasti : calamari ai ferri chargrilled squid with red chilli and wild rocket 22 pounds
Secondi Capesante ai ferri - chargrilled Scottish Scallops with capers, fresh coco blanc, chilli, pale aubergine and red vinegar 40 pounds
Lemon tart 10 pounds
Above Sicilian Chardonnay, my dining companions and the antipasti di verdura
Chocolate nemesis 10 pounds