A few weeks ago my father was in town. It was one of those weeks where the sun was surprisingly relentless and London was well and truly basking in it.
The plan was to go for dinner, but with the conditions that we eat outside and in the Fulham area. The River Cafe sprung to mind; a much loved Italian restaurant with a Michelin star (which it received in 1998 and has retained ever since), in an old Wharf on the Thames. Thus it took little to persuade the father that this was – if we could get a table – our Friday night dinner destination.
I called. They were fully booked. Of course they were. In vain I asked to be put on the waiting list. And then booked the Dove (a gourmet pub, also on the river but closer to Ravenscourt Park, with a big terrace).
Luck had it and Friday morning I got a call – they had a table for us at 8:30. The Dove would have to wait.
The restaurant was buzzing when we arrived. No, there were no tables available outside, but we would be moved as soon as there was. Inside was pretty cool though. I lack a real understanding of interior design, but I could tell a great deal of thought had gone into the modern, light and fun interior (design by Stuart Forbes Associates and Richard Rogers). The bar stretches the entirety of the restaurant. But the real eye-catcher is the wood burner – bright pink and not modest in size. It reminded me of something out of Charlie and the chocolate factory. Even the the loos were brightly coloured and fun.
We started with Bruschetta – a simple favourite of mine. Good bread, delicious sweet tomatoes and excellent olive oil. Sometimes it’s easy to get simple dishes wrong. Here they got it right.
Main course, I went for the Risotto with scallops and peas. While they could have made a bit more effort with the presentation – I mean, no matter what you try and do, no photo can make this dish look pretty – the taste was excellent. And I love mushy peas. Not perhaps the most sophisticated of dishes on the menu, but just what I felt like.
Half way throughout we were offered a table outside on the terrace. The River Cafe’s location on the Thames is really one of its most attractive features. They terrace is large too, so it fits a fair few tables, with lovely views of a small garden/lawn and the river. Darkness had fallen by the time we made it outside and rain was to follow shortly, but it made the dinner so much more special to dine al fresco on a warm summer evening.
The desert menu was a tempting variation of Italian Dolce. Eventually we decided to go for the Panna Cotta, because it’s a family favourite and because if you’re going to have it anywhere, have it at a Michelin-starred Italian restaurant. And it was wonderful. While I am not ususally a fan of alcoholic puddings, I really enjoyed the addition of Grappa to this dish. The baked apricot, which were the perfect balance of sweet & sour, was also a great accompaniment.
And so our lovely dinner came to an end, with two very strong and delicious espressos.
The staff are utterly charming. A friend of a friend, Jo, was working here that night. She offered to show me the kitchen, but by the time we had finished dinner, the kitchen was closing too.
The bill was substantial but they can charge these prices as they do have a Michelin star. This is not a casual dinner place. This is one worth saving up for.
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA
020 7386 4200 (Booking ahead is essential)
Photos Richard Bryant, Ian Heide and my own