Michelin-starred The River Café has long held the status as one of the best Italian restaurants in London, originally opening in 1987 and retaining its iconic reputation pretty much ever since. Located on the banks of the River Thames in Hammersmith, it’s known for its exceptional Italian food, excellent-mannered service and its stunning terrace, which is a must if you’re dining at the restaurant on a balmy day (although you might have to join a waiting list to get a seat). Head chef and founder Ruth Rogers is at the fore of the kitchen and has been for the last 35 years, with The River Café spawning some of the UK’s greatest chefs including Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Theo Randall.
The interiors are simple, minimalist and a little dated, which is all part of the canteen-style charm that the restaurant was originally built to imitate. Bright colours draw the eye to certain features in the room, such as a bright pink wood-fired oven, while stainless steel finishes bring a slightly industrial, café-like edge to the dining room.
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and the menu changes with the seasons. Expect rustic Italian fare that’s unfussy yet elegant and made with exceptionally high-quality ingredients. The menu is divided into antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci and gelati. Dishes might include the likes of Carpaccio di Manzo (finely sliced beef fillet crusted in thyme & black pepper with rocket and Sardinian winter tomatoes), Tagliatelle al Ragu (fresh pasta with veal, rabbit, pancetta and radicchio slow-cooked in red wine) and Coda di Rospo con Vongole (monkfish and clams roasted in white wine with capers, anchovies and cima di rape). Dessert span many gelato flavours and classics such as lemon tart or pannacotta with Grappa and Champagne rhubarb.
The wine list, meanwhile, features varieties from Italy’s many wine-making regions and also includes port, masala and sweet wines.