The River Cafe
I'm curious as to what Londoners think of The River Cafe? Is it all hype (overrated)? Touristy?
We'll be visiting from NYC in October and my BF (a chef who's currently cooking Italian) is interested. He's heard some good things from his boss and others in his company. I thought I'd read some negative comments though.
Is it better to just go for lunch? Or skip it altogether? I just want be sure we don't make a mistake because the dollar exchange is so poor now (thanks George.)
My new Harden's London Restaurants 2007 arrived today. I find them pretty spot on with their reviews. Their rating system is 1-5, 1 being exceptional 5 being poor. They gave it a 2 for food 3's for service and atmosphere and say people are "gob-smacked" by the stratospheric prices. The say the food is simple made divine by great ingredients. They also say dinner of 3 courses and a half carafe of wine and coffee will average about $116.82 each.
We are going in October too. 10/11-10/19. I am counting down the days.
When it first opened it was great. Now seems tired. Also, a bit of a hike from downtown London. Would skip.
Try Zefferano's for high end italian (if you can get in).
Tip: Try the revamped casual restaurant in the Mandarin Hotel if you are in the Knightsbridge area. They have sort of an asian/chinese slant but the food is stellar. They changed the concept in May and its really good. The chef who operates the 1 star michelin restaurant at the hotel oversees this too.
Okay, the River Cafe is expensive, and there is no doubt that a trip to Italy would be of far more interest to a chef cooking Italian, not to mention cheaper. Nevertheless, if you are in London, then you could do a lot worse.
These days people seem to relate the value of a meal to amount the food has been manipulated; think Molecular Gastronomy. The River Cafe does ingredient based cooking and the vision of such and such a chef is sidelined in favour of a more traditional approach. There's obviously not as much to say about a perfectly cooked Cep risotto as there is about something cooked in liquid nitrogen, but this doesn't mean that there's not as much to enjoy.
I say give it a go.
We're still tossing the idea around. If we do go it will be for lunch.
Obviously it's not imperative that we have Italian food while in London, what with us coming from NYC. There's no shortage of great Italian restaurants here.
As far as the style of cooking, I prefer ingredient based. Cooking with something like liquid nitrogen is something we'd probably consider gimmicky and maybe stay away from.
I'll be researching this board over the next few day for additional ideas and will post again with a short list. Hopefully you British hounds can help me narrow it down without breaking the bank!
Second the recommendation that you would we better off taking a low cost flight to Italy (but for lunch make it Florence, for dinner, Milan, over Rome). However, if you need to stay in London, in addition to Zafferano, try Locanda Locatelli: to my surprise I had a really excellent meal there. An alternative wold be Latium (probably the best raviolo in London) and Sardo (for Sardinian food, obviously, and quite a bit better than most Sardinian food I've had on the island). All these are in Central London - River Cafe is indeed a bit of a hike, and expensive, and a bit tired, etc etc.
BTW, I'm with you on bad Molecular Gastronomy, but when done well and with honesty and passion, as at the Fat Duck, it's a truly amazing experience.
Dont rule out not going to an Italian restaurant just becuase your coming from NYC. I think thats a mistake alot of people make. There are some very good Italian restaurants which are certainly worth a visit while your here.
Some to consider are; Locanda Locatelli, Zafferano, Signor Sassi, Assaggi, Caldesi, Cecconi, La Famiglia...
Sardo - I went a few months ago, it was pretty good - but definately not on the top of the list for you to visit.