Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Lunch at The River Cafe with The Good Soup

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.


  1. What an amazing time- good food, good company...and we get to join in too!!

  2. We have not been able to afford a restaurant meal in some months, so I am living vicariously by you. Between you descriptions and the photos I am inspired to redouble my efforts at home. I have a post for tomorrow that is a "must read".

  3. Wow. Sounds like a really special meal. I'd love to go there. So many places I would love to try for eating. Scotland has some great places to eat but not so many of them here in Aberdeen I must say.
    The River cafe stuff - lovely, fresh Italian kind of things - always seems beautiful. Your lemon tart looks amazing. And the veal. Yum.

  4. Really in Brunello di Montalcino? wow...that would be expensive.
    The lemon tart looks great!

  5. I've always wanted to go to the River Cafe- jealous, me? You betcha! Glad you had a great time!

  6. Sounds like a wonderful time! The food looks outstanding! And how fun to meet a fellow blogger from another part of the world.

  7. No pictures of you and Angela? Michael, I'm always amazed by how much you can eat... but to be honest, if I'm at the River Cafe, I'd splurge out on the good food too! All of your dishes make my eyes water with pure envy ;-)

  8. Dear Michael, it was such a treat to have lunch with you, and at a restaurant I've never been to before. I'm already imagining the restaurants we could splurge on in Australia... Tetsuyas... I would LOVE to go to Tetsuyas with you!
    Oh, and no photo of us, silly us. x Angela

  9. I was lots of shows about river cafe here. It's awesome. Local and unpretentiously fresh. It would be one of my top list in UK too. Glad that it won your approval too.

    Cherry dark? I think I've tried the tiny version of them once. I am not sure if they were from nz...
    and Pierre Herme... I can only dream for now.

  10. Wow! That's a big lunch. And everything looks fabulous. I've never been to The River Cafe but next trip to London...for sure.
    That lemon tart looks amazing. Glad you both saved room for dessert!

  11. You always find the best places with the best food!! I wish I lived closer to you :) Your afternoon sounds perfect... good food, good company...what else do you need??

  12. Wow, Michael...with an amazing lunch like that, I could not possibly eat anything for dinner. Love everything from appetizer to dessert...especially the droolworthy dessert!
    Great restaurant review, and yummy dishes, and wonderful photos!!!

  13. What fun! I'm so glad you got to meet up with a blogger buddy for the first time, and that it was at such a great restaurant. It's definitely a special occasion :)

  14. Thank you everyone for the comments. The River Cafe is a must visit if you're in London. Let me know if you're coming, I'd love to eat with you :) Angela and I had so much fun, we forgot to take a photo of us.

    @Jenn: I wish to live closer to you as well.

    @Elisabeth: I didn't have anything for dinner that evening. Just the macarons on the train.

    @Victoria: This is actually my 2nd time meeting another blogger. Earlier today I also met Victor from Random Cuisine in Edinburgh.
    Do let me know if you come to the UK :)

  15. That looks wonderful. Michael thanks for taking us there, I've always wondered what The River Cafe was like! :)

  16. That lemon tart looks amazing! There is a river cafe in new york too. I was like, wait is Michael here?

  17. @Lorraine: You're very welcome. You've taken me to many wonderful places on your blog too.

    @Rick: No, I wasn't in NYC. I wish. I'll let you know though... don't worry!

  18. So fun that you and Angela were able to meet up for lunch :) Looks like a fantastic place!