Sunday, 1 May 2011

Heaven @ The River Cafe

Some people can always say where they were when they heard a particular piece of news, or when a major even happened. Well on March 31st 2004, my life changed forever. There was no major international incident, no national disaster to contend with.
It was just a simple cooked meal with the finest ingredients that Italy could offer in a trendy restaurant by the river in Hammersmith.

Up until that point fine food had never passed my lips. Years of travelling had taught me where to get good nourishing and cheap food, but fine food never came into the equation. Food with Spice had ruled my palette, as my travels up to that point had really only taken me to India, South East Asia and Central America. Heat I was used to. Perfectly cooked food with subtle seasoning I was not. It was enlightening.
What I ate that night I cannot remember, but we did have a great night, and our food lives changed forever after that experience.
We’d been back to the River Café on many an occasion, but not for the last few years. Which is a shame as I have such fond memories of the place. But my wages still seem to remain the same, whilst the cost of living has risen a lot. Plus it is not the cheapest place to eat on the planet, so now it is left to special occasions.

I’ve noticed that once in a while, especially during a slow period they will have a lunch time special of 2 courses for £22 or £28 with dessert. For the prices they charge normally off the a la carte menu, this is a steal. Although we still managed to spend over £100 on this trip. Wine, coffees etc. It all adds up in the end.

There was a fire a year or so ago, and a total refurb ensued. The end result is a very slick cool looking restaurant. They still have kept the same design of the open kitchen, which works so well. I like seeing people cooking my food, although sitting down you can only see the top half of the chefs, but they look busy. Maybe it is all an illusion and the clean cut looking people are just for show. The real work is being done by little children in the basement.
Even for a Thursday lunchtime the place was packed to the rafters. This is a very good sign, maybe other restaurants could learn from this. Lunchtime specials fill your restaurant up. It pays the bills. Take note.
The menu hasn’t really changed that much since Theo was the main man there. It’s still very peasanty Italian food, but what they do so well is treating the food with respect. Everything was and always has been spot on.
Our Primi’s were a plate of Agnoli with Veal, Rabbit and Parmesan Cheese, and the Spaghetti with crab. Both were fantastic, although portion control could have been relaxed a little. A good sign of always wanting more.

The mixture of rabbit and veal worked a treat and the pasta was so delicate, I’m sure you could have read a newspaper through it.
The Secondi’s of Oven Roasted Monkfish, Chickpeas and my Seared Calves Liver and Lentils were both really good, although I preferred my Calf’s liver and the spicy lentils. So good, so yummy. I have a thing about offal and it wins hands down everytime. We were both tempted by the lamb, but it came with cannelloni beans and neither of us were in a bean mood that afternoon.

The Lemon tart was tart and creamy as it should be. I’m not sure if they were Amalfi lemons, but they probably were. It was a nice end to a great meal.

I’m not sure how many times they do this lunchtime special, but if you visit their website once in a while it will have the details. I think this was available for a couple of months. It’s well worth taking an afternoon off work to come here.
Until next year River Café.

River Cafe on Urbanspoon


Tom said...

I was wondering how the RC was after their fire and glad to hear it is still top notch.

Congrats and perfect venue for good Italian.

I have a bit of an urge to go to the "Italian lite" Zucca when I get back!

Mzungu said...

I've been wanting to goto Zucca for ages now, but just too many on the list