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|Address:||43-51 Great Titchfield Street, London W1W 7PQ|
|Tel:||020 7927 0840|
|Price: £42.00||Wine: £18.00||Champagne: £40.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 7.30am-12N 12N-3.30pm Sat-Sun 9-11.30am 12N-4pm Mon-Sun 6-10pm (Sun -9.30pm)|
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A belated celebratory dinner turned into the ultimate midweek treat at The Riding House Café. If asked to describe it in a sentence I would say it is Fitzrovia’s answer to the Wolseley. The same all day dining concept is in place, and if you go often enough you start to see a stream of ‘regulars’, who like you, cannot get enough of the place. In The Riding House Café’s case the regulars are assorted media types strolling from their offices for a quick debrief and a bite to eat. The décor is very deconstructed country house outbuilding meets communal refectory – the squirrel festooned lampshades and red banquettes in the formal dining room are complimented by teal blue bar stools on classic white tiling and a long table that acts as a centerpiece in the less formal dining area. All combined this gets you in the mood for laid back to the manor born flavours.
Ambience sorted, equal care seems to have been taken with service. We hadn’t booked, but there was none of the snotty superciliousness that seems to blight many popular establishments. A quick agreement that the table would be needed a couple of hours later and we were seated, sipping Prosecco and perusing the menu. The highlight for me were the small plates – the perfect solution for the undecided. We ordered the beetroot carpaccio with ricotta and merlot vinaigrette and the spicy buttermilk fried chicken with celery and blue cheese. Not in a long time have two small plates of food made me so thoroughly happy. Thin slices of crisp beetroot and ripe ricotta were happy bedfellows, what made the whole thing even better was the merlot vinaigrette providing the necessary dose of acidity to proceedings. And finally the surprise: a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds adding a crunchy nuttiness that brought the dish together. The buttermilk chicken consisted of a trio of chicken rings fried in a truly spicy batter; the accompanying celery and blue cheese dip was pleasant enough , but the chicken on its own was the revelation.
Onto mains, both myself and my friend opted for the cheeseburger, medium rare. To drink as it was a school night, we chose the half carafe of the Valpolicella, one of an impressive 20 wines on the ‘House Selection’. Restaurants really need to understand that there is no reason to make customers feel the poor relation by opting for a house wine usually drawn from a sad selection of two or three, and The Riding House Café did a commendable act in having not only a range but also knowledgeable staff to guide you through the list. There was a little wait for the burgers to arrive but when they did they delivered, toasted semi sweet bun, delicious meat, properly pink in the middle and two crisp Cos lettuce leaves and an optional gherkin, thin red onion rings on the side and condiments galore for you to pimp your burger as you would wish. I utilized the lot, and the opening few minutes of silence were testimony to our both enjoying our food. The fries were competent – I would have liked mine a little hotter, but the burger was so delicious that it was forgiven.
Pudding had to be the inevitable tarte tartin for two which was served with a dollop of cream and also a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. The tart had adequate caramelization on the apples, the pastry was good to fair, although a little soggy in places, but the ice cream was suitably indulgent and did the job of providing the hot/cold contrast that is often present in the best puddings. And the waiters had remembered it was my friend’s birthday and put a solitary candle in the pudding, a super thoughtful touch that brought a smile to both our faces. Feeling festive I had a glass of the Chateau Septy to accompany. It did exactly what you would expect of a decent pudding wine, coaxing out further sweetness from a delicious plate of food.
Like Cinderella at quarter to midnight we called it an evening. The bill came in at a rather recession friendly £98, not bad at all considering all that was consumed, service was included and bar a couple of teeny-tiny imperfections everything that was put before us was yummy to boot. The next trip to the Riding House Café has already happened – I couldn’t face staying away from that beetroot carpaccio for too long – it is officially my new true love.