Few Michelin-starred restaurants can effortlessly create intimacy in such a cavernous space, or accommodate young children with the same aplomb as famous faces – but that's why this world-famous Italian by the river is so successful. It can sometimes feel like a ‘very expensive canteen' (‘they know how to charge here'), but consistently packed houses tell their own story. The River Café's mantra is fastidious seasonal sourcing and ‘rustically styled' food, underpinned by forthright cooking. ‘Spot-on' handmade pasta is always a hit (perhaps spaghetti with Cornish crab, monk's beard and fennel seeds, or tagliarini with nettles and pecorino), and wood-roasted specialities also deliver ‘fresh, fabulous flavours' (Anjou pigeon with char-grilled polenta, broad beans and garden leaves, say). To finish, try pannacotta with grappa and raspberries rather than the much-vaunted chocolate nemesis. ‘Attentive, polite and knowledgeable' staff add to the cosmopolitan buzz, and the all-Italian wine list is one of London's best – a treasure trove of glorious regional gems.
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