Friday, February 22, 2013

The River Cafe

Long ago when fresh herbs were dried and tomatoes weren't grown on the vine, there was a man who changed the world. One day this man came on the telly and told us all about freshness and seasonality . He brought us wonderful fresh herbs, and tomatoes that grew on actual vines.Then he told us we could stuff them inside a fish, stick it in a foil bag and bung it in the oven. and the world changed. 
He just appeared one day, like Moses with his arms full of tablets and told us the world had changed.  except this geezers Godly offerings were edible. 
and lo, my disciples it was all, really really pukka . Amen. 

The River Cafe, birth place of the beautiful fat tongued chef Jamie Oliver is not what you think it is. Yes its on the riverside but no it's not a cafe, although it thinks it is. 

It's in a car park

Well that's a bit untrue. It's in a car park surrounded by office blocks. Nice office blocks and there is a river there, you can't see the river but it's there and I'm sure it's nice. The room is big. Think school canteen and stick in a bit of Ikea and you're close enough. Strangely they have beautiful linen tablecloths and over these they have paper tablecloths. Paper. Not good paper either just cheap poundshop paper. Now I know it's hilarious and 'just like a cafe' har har har but no, it's not, it's shit. Hideous shit. Stop it now. 

This place is very well known for supreme produce, paired with simple seasonal Italian cooking. And it's also the establishment that launched Jamie's career. It's held a single Michelin Star solidly since 1997. 

To the food. 

Bread. They have a huge wood burning stove right in the centre of the open kitchen but I'll bet anyone anything that my bread wasn't cooked in it. The bread was a bit rubbish really. Can't remember what it was and i only ate there 5 hours ago.Also the butter was poor. Bad bread from an Italian restuarant is worrying. 

'Antipasti' first.  Kind of like a first starter 
'Chargrilled squid with fresh chilli and rocket' 
I like squid but in general it doesn't pack a punch so the addition of fresh chilli was something I looked forward too. However it wasn't good. It wasn't bad but it had no punch, no hit. The chilli wasn't hot enough and had little to no flavour, whilst the lemon wedge was straight from 
a supermarket. A cheap supermarket.  

'Primi' next. That's the bit between starter and main. I do love the way Italians cram in there courses. Ok so this was the single most expensive plate of food I have ever eaten. It's ridiculous. 
This plate of food is £5 more expensive than the FULL tasting menu at Gordon Ramsay's eponymous 3 michelin star restuarant in Chelsea. That's an obscene amount of money.  
'Tagliatelle with white truffle'
Simple freshly made pasta, in an aged parmasan cheese sauce with 10g of white truffle grated over the top. 
Perfection. And worth every penny. White truffle from Alba is the sexiest most sumptuous thing in this world. The perfume is extraordinary and feels like its seeping into your body through every open poor. I could smell it's advance ten feet from my table and the waiter bringing it just smiled at me. He knew. 

Next up was 'Secondi' the main. 

'Middlewhite pork chop wood-roasted with rosemary & sage with cannellini beans & artichoke 'ala romana'' 
A huge pork chop nicely roasted in the wood oven gave a great smokey flavour and  ate nicely.  Whilst a  well trimmed artichoke was stuffed with herbs and braised in olive oil and wine and was excellent. Also good were the white beans, they were soft, unctuous and well seasoned. 
But. It was just swimming in olive oil. The Greatest first pressed, single malt, virgin be-trodden, silken, organic free range olive oil grown on the vine blah blah blah.        Swimming.          In.         It.
It needed acidity so so badly to cut through the weight of alI that oil that I  found myself on my knees literally praying to the god of Salsa Verdi to come take a dump on my head.  a great dish ruined by the lack of a lemon. Shame. 

Didn't do pudding. Or wine so no score for those. 

So to sum up. I did enjoy it. The service was good enough and I had one of the best plates of food I've ever eaten. 
But there was a lot that I didn't think was right. This is a place for power lunches and 'impress your date' nights out. A place to be seen in and a place to tell people about. The foods good.
But not a patch on The Eagle in farringdon But I suppose that's fair really. 

The Eagle's a pub. Not just a cafe. 

Overall 6/10

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