January 12, 2006

River Cafe revisited

Yesterday we were having an office 'away day', borrowing a meeting room next door to the River Cafe, so of course we were compelled to go there at the end for a drink and - oh, go on then, a nibble.

What is so astonishing about the RC is how the quality of absolutely everything is so incredible. Even the smallest thing - a piece of toasted bread drizzled with olive oil - becomes almost orgasmic due to the sheer quality of the ingredients and the care in handling them. We only stayed for two proseccos-and-blood-orange-juice drinks and a couple of starters to share, but in each I was struck again by how much other chefs have to learn from the standards that are set here. Nothing falls down, and for those who balk at the prices (which aren't that high - you can easily eat worse and pay much, much more) or say that 'I could make that at home' - well, actually, just go there and eat and you will see why you can't.

We had squid with fresh chilli, cavolo nero and new season's olive oil - exactly one of those dishes that you see on the menu everywhere and that you think you can make at home. But to get the squid both smoked and crispy from the flame, and meltingly tender, without the slightest resistance, is an incredible skill of timing. Even in the passage from grill to plate to table, most squid will have gone from perfect to slightly tough. The cavolo nero was also perfect, slick with oil without being greasy, full of dark and wintry flavour.

Our other starter was a ball of mozzarella the size of my fist, broken open, drizzled with oil and accompanied by a wild mushroom bruschetta and some swiss chard, gently sweated. Again, the quality of the ingredients shines through and the combination was superb. Anyone who thinks £12 is too much for such a quantity of perfect mozzarella - the hint of a rind on the outside, fresh, smooth, chewy but utterly un-rubbery within - has got to be kidding; and that's without the other ingredients.

We all wished we could stay for dinner properly - but it's testament to quality when you are in dreamland all the way home on the tube, rolling your tongue round your mouth for the last few shreds of taste, unable to think of anything else. Even today, writing about it, I can still feel the texture of the mozzarella in my mouth. Go eat there, people.


Anonymous GastroChick said...

Just been checking out your site its great. I am also blogging about eating experiences in London and have dined at most of the places you have blogged about.

I went to the River Cafe last year, and found the food resonated in its simplicity. It's no surprise that so many great chefs have trained in this kitchen.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Niamheen said...

Hi there! Just found your blog. As a fellow food loving Londoner I am sure I will be back fairly often.

I was at River Café for the first time in December and I was blown away by it. I had the most amazing crab starter. It was delicate and light and beautifully seasoned. I can't recommend it highly enough. I also had some prosecco and blood orange juice. Mmmmmm.

6:19 PM  

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