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|Address:||Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA|
|Tel:||020 7386 4200|
|Price: £71.00||Wine: £24.00||Champagne: £66.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sat 12.30-2.15pm (Sat -2.30pm) Mon-Sat 7-9pm (Fri-Sat -9.15pm) Sun 12N-3.00pm|
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Being “Easties”, we rarely travel this far west for a meal. Our previous visit had been about 5yrs before, but we felt that a return visit was needed. A good decision. Our late summer mid week long lunch was possibly our most enjoyable meal of 2011. As others have mentioned, the riverside location and large glass wall make it ideal for lunch. Having read them afterwards, I was very surprised by some of the very negative reviews. A complete contrast to our own experience, which was hard to fault.
Food style: Standard Italian style choices, with a focus on seasonal, fresh and simple. All our dishes had super high quality ingredients, and were wonderfully simple and delicious. No pretension, just high quality dishes in good “man sized” portions. Some may not like the lack of design or style in how the food is presented on the plate, but to me this is all a part of the focus on the food not the fripperies.
Since we liked the sound of so many dishes, we decided to go for the “full Italian”: Starter, pasta, main & dessert + lots of wine. Oddly enough, we didn't feel like eating anything that evening ! We had beautifully fresh grilled squid and sardines, followed by excellent al dente pasta ribbons with new season porcini mushrooms. Couldn't fault. This was followed by a lovely large piece of delicious hake and a good size lean and very tasty / gamey new season grouse. Staff very kindly warned us about the gamey taste – but that was exactly what I wanted. One of the most tender and tasty grouse I've eaten in 2011. All topped off by a wonderfully fresh English fruit summer pudding.
Atmosphere: Bustling and relaxed, no background music, and not too noisy (high ceiling must help). Ideal for lunch. Incredibly busy, and not just politicians on PR expenses – what downturn ?
Service: Informal (sometimes the staff actually seemed to be enjoying themselves !!) but professional. Could be perfunctory rather than friendly. Generally not pretentious or arrogant, which can be a big problem in such successful places. Questions were answered properly, and we weren't rushed at all. Pretty good, but could be better at this price.
Pricing: Certainly a bit toppy, but high quality ingredients are not cheap. The informal service, decor and atmosphere may lead you not to expect Locatelli or Zafferano type pricing ? Anyway, our fantastic 3hr lunch cost us about £300, including a lot of drink. To benchmark, 2 courses for 2 inc service ex all drinks worked out at £115. Great value. More generally, Starters were £15-£20, Pasta circa £20, Mains £30-£40.
We will definitely be back. For me, The River Cafe is now my Italian version of Hix in Clerkenwell. We deliberately went for a mid-week lunch, since I wasn't sure how different our experience would be on a busy weekend, with the locals and their over indulged children ?! I think that it was a good call.