The River Cafe had long been on my bucket list of restaurants to try with so many famous chefs training there on simple, Italian food. After landing in my somewhat far flung location in Richmond and seeing this was just across the river and a quick walk, I decided I had to snag a seat, even if just at the bar.
Well, uhm, err…I’m glad I was checking my travel routes prior to departure as my River Cafe was not quite THE River Cafe. Turns out there is a breakfast restaurant in Richmond that looks somewhat akin to a Denny’s. So glad that I checked this in advance so that I would not have had to miss my coveted reservation in fear of pancakes!
Turns out the restaurant wasn’t particularly close, but just a couple miles back toward London. Oh what else was I going to do on a Friday night alone? The lady who helped me with the reservation was so kind on the solo part I decided to go even though I was tired and could have easily just as remained at the hotel pub.
I made the few mile journey into Hammersmith and was greeted my a trio of kind, cute hostessy who all wore somewhat whimsical outfits – not the stuffy, formal vibe that the internet claims about this setting. They let me have my choice of indoor or outdoor and after checking my coat and realizing that I would basically be in the laps of romantic couples inside, I opted for out. Despite having to un-check my coat, give me a blanket, and allow me to take up a table that was prime real estate, they seemed totally unfussed by it.
The view of the charming little park just before the river was nicely complemented by a glass of Billecart-Salmon, my favorite.
Across the river was the Harrod’s Depository. I can only image what must await within its walls! My evening also featured a divine sunset that I couldn’t take my eyes away from.
My attentive (but not overly) waiter was as kind as the hostesses. When I asked his opinion between two appetizers, he just brought me half portions of each. I don’t think I have ever felt so accommodated as a solo diner. Here’s half an order of proscuitto and melon that was fresh and delicious.
Then, there was the half order of the veal tartare which looks…not great…but was one of the best things I’ve eaten in recent memory. Again, my kind waiter insisted on spacing these out like two courses so that I could linger.
My third course was a simple cheese and pesto ravioli that was very al dente, but very good.
For dessert, I again asked between the lemon and apricot almond tart and again was brought a little of each to try. Seriously, how kind is that?? (PS. lemon was the clear winner).
Meanwhile, a massive pop-up storm blew in and saturated about every table outside. Since I was dining alone, I managed to stay dry and tucked under the awning while the rest of the diners scrambled away in their finery to find cover. The waiters were so attentive during their plight and eventually made their way to me and seemed relieve and amused when I told them that I’d narrowly survived.
Walking back to the tube station, I caught the final rays of sunlight for the day and passed many bars and upmarket condo buildings. Had I have been with another, I certainly would have bar hopped and made an evening of it. Instead, I headed back to the safety of Richmond and called it a night. I will be sure to make The River Cafe a regular rotation on my London restaurant list. I have not been so pleasantly surprised by a restaurant in a very long time. The River Cafe more than lived up to the hype and I look forward to reading its cookbook very soon.