Emerging from Hammersmith underground station at the tail end of a rainy evening rush hour is like stumbling into a dystopian near future. The weather, the buildings and the faces are all grey and tired.

But head towards the river and things improve. You might find yourself at The Dove, a pub of which Graham Greene was fond. Or perhaps you will wander across Hammersmith Bridge, designed by Joseph Bazalgette (good name, better facial hair).

…possessed of an appetite and desirous of Italian fare…

If you should find yourself possessed of an appetite and desirous of Italian fare, you could do far worse than that renowned riparian restaurant, the River Café. I don’t mind telling you I was excited.

The girl on the door was just as chilly as the air outside, which was rather a shame, but this could not dent my anticipation and as it transpired, all of the waiters and waitresses were helpful, attentive and more than a little dishy.

The Interior

…all clean lines and white tablecloths…

The Café is a long hall on the ground floor of a building set back from the Thames. The interior is of modern design, all clean lines and white tablecloths. At the end of the room is an open kitchen. I am ambivalent about open kitchens. The one here served only to heat up the tables nearest it to an intolerable degree.

The Starters

I chose the scallops to start with. They arrived with their corals attached as is best in my view. I’ve always felt that the red roe lends the scallop a certain pizzazz, a showbiz flair. The texture of both meat and roe was perfection and each was possessed of an exquisite sweetness.

But there were only two. Two of some things can be enough—Morecambe and Wise, and to a lesser extent, Robson and Jerome—but two scallops are not enough. The Dorset crab was favourably received by my fellow diners.

The Mains

I decided upon spatchcocked pigeon for the main, partly because I don’t eat enough pigeon, but mostly because saying ‘spatchcock’ makes me giggle.  It was the most toothsome bird I have ever eaten. Rich and succulent with a hint of game.

Its accompaniment of yellow wax beans and Parmesan was ill considered, though eaten in isolation from the bird proved tasty enough.

The Deserts

For pudding, the Chocolate Nemesis was recommended. The name intrigued me. Nemesis, depending on what you read, was the mother of Helen of Troy. So she was probably a bit of a fox herself. She was the Goddess of Vengeance; cold, remorseless, and all things considered, rather a handful.

…remorseless, unrelenting pleasure.

What appeared was a rich chocolate cake. The richness was owed in part to the lack of flour in its preparation. It rested on a crisp base, a wonderful textural counterpoint to the goo above.

It was simply gigantic and served with a dollop of cream. It was remorseless, unrelenting pleasure.

Though perhaps a wiser choice would have been the salted caramel ice cream, which blew the socks clean off one of my companions.

The Verdict

The River Café is fantastic. A little pricey, but good value amongst those of its standard. Around £15 starters, £30 mains, £10 puddings.

The quality of the food is simply splendid.

The quality of the food is simply splendid. So the lack of thought regarding what to pair the pigeon with surprised me. Perhaps I ordered wrong, but in a restaurant of such calibre, one shouldn’t be given the opportunity to do so. Certainly, the pudding was over facing. It wasn’t so much a cake as an enormous cake-shaped challenge, but I ought to have expected something of that kind given the name.

I didn’t expect to write a mixed review. There’s nothing for it. I’ll have to go back and see if I was right.

The River Café’s menus change often. Samples can be read here

River Café, Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, London W6 9HA

4 Stars

Image courtesy of River Café


About The Author

Oliver is a philosophy graduate, writer and mediocre violinist. He currently works for BAFTA.

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