Yesterday I had one of the most delicious and satisfying lunches in ages at The River Cafe... and here I am now, going to brag about it to all of you. What made this lunch even more special is I met Angela Hirst, the woman behind The Good Soup blog.
When Angela emailed me about a couple of weeks ago asking for restaurant recommendation, the River Cafe was the first place that came to my mind. Angela was so excited about going to the River Cafe and so was I. This was my second visit to the River Cafe and I have waited long to come back. The food is rather expensive (none of the main meals is below £32), but it's a treat and it's incredibly delicious.
If you don't already know, Jamie Oliver got his big break while working at the River Cafe years ago under one of the most influential British chefs and co-founder of the restaurant, Rose Gray (Sadly, Rose passed away last year). Jamie was spotted by TV crew who were filming at the restaurant and the rest is history.
Anyway, I met Angela at the restaurant and it's so lovely and exciting to finally meet someone 'online' offline. We got to talk, and no surprises that the subjects revolved around food and blogging. What to expect?!
The menu at the River Cafe changes daily and also according to seasonality of the produce. Everything on the menu sounds delicious and making decisions what to have wasn't easy. You can have the full-five course Italian feast (antipasti, primi, secondi, dolci/gelati, formaggi) if you wish. I did that on my first visit. I suggest you don't. Angela and I talked about the menu and after few deliberations, we made up our mind.
We went for a starter and a main and hoping to save room for dessert. Angela had the classic Prosciutto di San Daniele - with Charentais melon. I am normally not a fan of melon, but I did have a bite of this and I must say, it's good. Sweet juicy melon and salty prosciutto bring out the sweet and salty best in one another.
I had the Vitello Tonnato - finely sliced roasted veal with tuna mayonnaise, anchovies, capers, parsley and rainbow chard. The succulent veal melts in your mouth and the flavours in the dressing are intensely delicious. Plus, I love good anchovies. What a way to start an elegant summer eating.
For her main, Angela had Stinco di Vitello con Risotto Milanese - veal shin slow-cooked in Pieropan Soave with garlic and thyme with saffron risotto and gremolata. The veal is tender and with the gremolata made of lemon zest, garlic and parsley, and the golden coloured saffron risotto, beautiful!
For me, Piccione al forno - whole Anjou pigeon wood-roasted in Brunello di Montalcino with wood-roasted potatoes 'luchesse'. The pigeon is cooked to pink perfection and the potatoes are superb. I started carving the pigeon with knife and fork, then I lost patience and I was hands on. Such a great feeling ripping the flesh of the pigeon with my teeth and sucking on bones.
After the two courses, there was still definitely room for dessert. After all, this is a special lunch. Angela's been eyeing the Almond and Strawberry Tart on the counter and she wanted it, she got it. This was simply out of this world and I could not stop eating it. It's my involuntary reflexes to delicious food.
I was tempted to get the Nocciola (hazelnut ice cream... one of my favourite ice cream flavours) but changed my mind and went for the Lemon Tart instead. Man, it was the right decision. This tart is ridiculously delicious. Lovely pastry and the smooth lemon filling is just right, not too sharp, just fresh and deeelicious.
Before we left the cafe, I gave Angela the chocolate beetroot cake and a couple bars of Green & Blacks cherry dark chocolate that I know is not available in Australia. We walked to the underground station and I asked Angela if she had the time for a quick visit to Selfridges for some macarons, but she had to get back. Well, there's always another time. Maybe, I'll visit Australia.
Snacks for train journey back to Sunderland: 4 pieces of Pierre Herme macarons, pistachio, jasmine, milk chocolate and passion fruit, olive oil and vanilla. I was smiling with each bite and made inappropriate yummy noises.