Wednesday, January 10, 2007

River Cafe

Oh I have been a naughty and not been updating at all. I've got too much stuff to catch up on, so there'll probably be quite a lot of activity over the next few days. Not that I am insane enough to imagine that anyone is actually reading this....

So, River Cafe with Emu. I'm embarrassed to admit that this was my first ever trip and I'm still kicking myself that I hadn't been earlier. I lived in West London for years for crying out loud. The cab ride home cost me £30 this time. Which was as much as the scallop dish pictured on the right.

In some ways the River Cafe exemplifies everything that's wrong with eating out in London. It's basically serving the sort of food I eat at home (oh, get me). Really great ingredients not mucked about (I appear to be channeling Jamie Oliver today. Apologies) but £30 for four scallops and some lentils? I cooked the exact same dish two days later and it came out at £7. Including an extra scallop. What's wrong with London diners? I'm sure most people that night were having a lovely time, cooing and ahhing over the delicious food and then trolling off, confident they'd had a quintessential London dining experience. They had, as long as you recognise that paying the bill in London can often leave you thinking you need one of those victims of crime leaflets the Met like to hand out.

But I shouldn't be mean. This really is delicious food and I can afford it, so what matter is it to me that I can do this at home? I'll tell you why. Most people in that restaurant are probably completely unaware that they could make that exact dish themselves. The adventurous might try to re-create it, perhaps using some nice lentils de Puy like I did from the Sainsburies Special Selection. But their scallops, perhaps from M&S, will be lacking tlusciousnessess of the River Cafe's, because it's impossible to buy good fish in the supermarket these days. And no-one seems to care.

Luckily the River Cafe is here to show people what food can really taste like. From the start, every ingredient had been sourced with the most care and then treated with the most respect. So my lamb had just been roasted, perhaps after a rub with a little garlic, in a proper wood burning oven. My potatoes with trevisse were deeply savoury, cooked long and slow to bring out the sweetness of both and melt them together.

Desserts were unnecessary, but the caramel ice cream, while not quite up to St John standards, was delicious and Emu declared her almond tarte divine. What was best though was the company, and the feeling that I'd managed to cross a place off my list before I leave. If I were staying in London I'd be planning a trip back now, but the move means that I have too little time, and too many things to do!

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