Friday 17 January 2020

The River Café, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, West London

It can be tough to secure a table for the winter set lunch at this famous west London eatery. But, if you can, you get a chance to eat reasonably-priced Michelin-starred food from a restaurant that is an intrinsic part of London's culinary folklore - you have a choice of two courses for £28, three courses for £34 or four courses for £42.  The menu changes daily, but with four varied dishes for antipasti, four for primi and four for secondi, you will likely be spoilt for choice. Although the portions aren't that big, you'll get some tasty focaccia rolls upfront, meaning three courses should be sufficient. The hand-cut tagliatelli with Parma ham and cream makes for a mouthwatering primi. For a secondi, the slow-cooked pork with soft polenta is both succulent and full of flavour. The ice cream for desert is good enough, but not exceptional. To drink, the Pinot Bianco, 2018 Cantina Terlano, (£29 for a 500ml carafe) is clean and pleasant.

In general, the cooking is competent, but not flashy. It feels like The River Café is taking a safety-first approach, perhaps reflecting the fact that many of the diners are getting on a bit. Still, there is a small army of very efficient staff, and you might  glimpse the odd famous face in the large, bustling dining room, which doesn't quite afford views of the river. An open-plan, but closely-packed, space with an industrial edge, the restaurant was originally designed by Richard Rogers. The starched white table cloths are well lit, while quirky splashes of colour, such as a big red heart, help keep The River Café up to date. 8/10