the river café
Today T and I headed over to hammersmith for lunch at the legendary River Café. The recently refurbished restaurant (it suffered a fire early last year) has been around since 1987 and its kitchens have produced chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Theo Randall, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Sam Clarke. Run by business partners and co-chefs Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray, the café dishes up simple regional Italian cooking with a focus on seasonality and top produce.
As we walked into the airy, modern restaurant we immediately noticed the clock projected on the back wall and the beautiful white wood oven to the left of it. The open kitchen runs along the back and to the right of the dining room in an L-shape, and on the left large floor to ceiling windows open out to the courtyard and offer a scenic view of the Thames.
The menus which were sectioned in typical Italian style – anitpasti, primi, secondi and dolce. Having woken up still full from last night’s meal I wasn’t quite ready to attempt four courses so went with two – a pasta starter and a lobster main; T was even less up for a big lunch and opted for two antipasti dishes.
She started with the Calamari ai Ferri – juicy and tender chargrilled squid with fresh red chilli and rocket. It was simply seasoned and dressed in lemon juice and olive oil but the squid was so fresh and well-cooked, that was all it needed.
My Panzotti di Zucca was not as much of a looker, and appeared to have been chucked carelessly on the plate (one gets the distinct impression that presentation is not of the utmost importance here). It tasted good though – lovely thin handmade pasta with a stuffing of onion squash, marjoram, dried chilli and mascarpone, served with sage butter and parmesan. The filling was a little on the sweet side but just right paired with some rocket I nicked from T’s plate.
T’s next course, the Carpaccio di Manza was just as fresh as her first, the thinly sliced thyme and pepper crusted beef fillet succulent, and splendid with the fresh horseradish cream and sweet roasted golden and red beetroots.
My rather substantial Aragosta al Forno was packed with flavour – the Dorset Blue Lobster had been wood-roasted with wild oregano and chilli and was served with some grilled zucchini, aubergines and red peppers. We were both impressed by the impact the food delivered with minimal ingredients and simple preparations.
The portions were generous, and for once we were not swayed by the desserts, ending our lunch with a soothing cup of fresh mint tea. I left wanting to be back real soon – maybe I’ll bring B next weekend.
The River Café
London, W6 9HA
t. 020 7386 4200