Saturday 22 September 2012

River Cafe

Value.  What is value?  "The worth of something in terms of the amount or other things for which it can be exchanged".  An inherently subjective concept.  I would not think a five hundred quid  pair of Louboutin's represent value.  Others do.  I thought that four hundred for a meal at Coi in San Francisco (albeit with two hundred of that covered by the restaurant due to the wait) was fair.  It was the best meal I have ever eaten.  By a long way.

Sometimes when I eat out, I wish you didn't see the prices until the end.  But were this to be the case,  the food-loving world would go bankrupt - as it is I am already prone to over-ordering. I just want to try everything.  But prices provide a barometer.  They go up, you expect more. At rock bottom, all you expect is to be fed and watered, preferably without being antagonised in the process.

So when the prices are as high as they are at the River Cafe you're expecting a real treat.  Throw into the mix its Michelin star and a reputation earned over 25 years at the coal face of the London restaurant scene, and the expectations go through the roof.  Perhaps that is unfair.  Perhaps I should have just considered what was on the plate in front of me - but I don't think that is possible.  Value matters.

I was at the River Cafe for a work event -  a closing dinner.  The firm was paying.  So I should have been able to relax - the bill wasn't going to worm its way to me.  But as it was my first time, everything was being judged against a return visit.

To start we shared some antipasti - cold meats, mozzarella and some panzanella.  All excellent - especially the mozzarella, perfect.

We also shared some char grilled squid with chopped chilies.  This was vastly over-seasoned.  Salt, salt and more salt.  Not good at all.

Onto to El Primi.  I went for the wild mushroom ravioli in sage butter sauce.  The pasta was light, well made.  Sage butter (something close to my heart after first encountering it in while stumbling around Eastern Europe as a student in a place called Konoba Mate on Korcula Island - go if you can) worked well with the porcini and girolles.  An accomplished dish.

For el Secondi I had the lamb leg, fresh canellini beans, stuffed yellow peppers pangrattato (or breadcrumbs, for the likes of me) and salsa verde.  Everything was well cooked -  the salsa verde cut through the lamb, the beans were nice.  The peppers didn't add much.

To finish, panacotta with grappa soaked raspberries.  The panacotta was creamy, but lacked flavour. Grappa soaked raspberries, not for me.

And so we come back to "value".  Was the portion of six ravioli worth fifteen pounds?  No.  Was the lamb worth thirty five? Definitely not.  Did I enjoy them both? Yes.  I can see the appeal of River Cafe. Sitting by the river, enjoying a glass of prosecco, feasting on seasonal Italian cuisine.  Could I recommend that you do so?  If money is no option, then yes.  If not, spend your hard-earned coins elsewhere, even taking into account the (almost exclusively) excellent food, it just does not represent value.

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