River Café

Oh, it has been such a long time! Traveling can contribute to laziness, and I have been mainly in Cambridge where there isn’t a great deal of good food to report. But still, I am going to make amends by writing trying to get back to the ‘one post every two days’ rule that I set myself when I first started. My next couple of posts will be a little outdated…

A few days after Marcus Wareing, my father and I went to number 82 on the list, River Café. This large, light, modern restaurant (perfect for lunch, especially when the weather is nice) is known for training several well known celebrity chefs (amongst them Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – the influence can be seen in the kind of back-to-basics simple food with top quality ingredients they serve). We did have a very difficult time finding the place (there is construction work going on on the Thames walk which runs down the bottom of the restaurant so you have to approach it from a rather round about way), and we weren’t the only ones – it seemed as if half the people walking around that area were trying to find it. It was, however, well worth the hunt.

As we arrived we were both rather impressed by the decor – it is large in whites, deep sky blue, stainless steel (the pictures I took were not that impressive so won’t be included), and large glass doors which opened on to an outdoor courtyard. I started with a delicious bellini, and for starter my father ordered a fungi salad, which was a wonderful combination of the fresh greens with the rich flavour of the mushrooms.

My starter had the best component of all the dishes that day. I ordered seared scallops with tempura vegetables, eagerly awaiting the scallops, which are one of my favourites, and not thinking too much about the vegetables. How wrong I was – the scallops were fine, though the sauce that accompanies them was much too strong (actually, it tasted like it had too much soy sauce in it) which really hid the taste and delicacy of the scallops. The tempura vegetables, on the other hand, were amazing – so light, so full of flavour, that while I was in the process of eating them I was looking over to the River Cafe cookbooks that they had sitting on the bar hoping that they contained the recipe for the very thing I was at that moment devouring.

For the main, dad had pork, though I do not remember much about it (not having tried it).

I had seared salmon with lentil salad, served at room temperature. The serving at room temperature was something I really liked – it really allowed you to appreciate the taste of the salmon – but it was clearly something they were anxious to warn you about both on the menu and when you ordered. The salmon was perfectly done and delicious, though very simple – nothing distracted from the taste of the beautiful moist fish. The lentil salad was nice enough, though I think there was something about both the emphasis on simplicity and the portion size that meant it was a little dull. Though, overall, this was my only criticism.

When it came time for desert, my father immediately jumped at the affogato (I don’t think this one came with liqueur) – which, while I understand the appeal, I can’t help but think is an unadventurous choice (I mean it really is just ice cream with espresso poured over it). He very much enjoyed it, while I struggled over the decision as to whether I should order the lemon tart or the ‘chocolate nemesis’ (a rich, flourless, mousse-like cake).

In the end, after much deliberation with the waiter, he suggested I just had half of each – a suggestion I eagerly took up. They were an odd paring together, but each one was unbelievably good.

And there we have it – another very good meal from my time in London. Highly recommended (especially as you can then have a leisurely walk down along the Thames afterwards to work off your multiple deserts).

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