The next stop on my Festival of Food journey was The River Cafe. Like most nights this time of year, the night we went was cold and raining and as I left work, I wondered why I had agreed to this when I could be on my way home to a hot cup of tea and a warm couch. However, once I arrived, I immediately felt better about my decision. Walking up to the restaurant I could hear the river running under the entry bridge and I felt the calm flow over me and the warmth comfort me as I walked through the doors into the restaurant. As I looked out the window at the beautiful view of the city lights over the river, I forgot all about my couch and the cup of tea.
Our entrée was a trio of starters:
- Will Studd halloumi, Sardinian couscous and melanzane argodolce,
- Butternut demitasse with Manchego crostini
- Lamb arancini with orange and dill aioli.
All three were delicious; if I had to pick a favourite, I would slightly lean towards the halloumi. All three had a perfect range of textures and flavours that complimented each other well, and I would gladly eat them all again. The halloumi was cooked perfectly with a crunchy coating and smooth filling, paired with the freshness of the Sardinian couscous and melanzane argodolce.
For my main, I ordered the Chicken Breast — baked with pancetta, confit garlic, red rice & almond pilaf, sweet potato puree, tomato & basil jus. I was thrilled with this choice; I think the skin had a pepper glaze on it, which was a superb contrast to the sweet potato puree. We also ordered a side of sauteed seasonal greens, which were a lovely fresh accompaniment to our deliciously rich mains.
We had hoped to fit dessert in but by this stage, we were all very full and satisfied with our meals so we opted to finish with the house-made petit fours included in the package. We each received a Double chocolate espresso biscotti and Limoncello marshmallow. Wow! By far the best marshmallow we had all ever tasted. It just melted in my mouth and the texture was soft, fluffy and sticky. I would go back just to eat a dessert with the marshmallow in it. As for the biscotti (which duh chocolate, of course, it was delicious), the coffee flavour wasn’t overpowering, and it was a lovely soft texture with a light crunchy crust. A perfect combination to finish what was a sumptuous meal.
In the words of Heston Blumenthal “Service is more important than food”, this is a statement I would agree with, I was at a restaurant recently where the food was amazing but the service was absolutely terrible. I have no intention of going back there for that reason, I didn’t even take my usual souvenir photo of the food to upload to social media because I didn’t want to give them the publicity, that’s how unhappy I was with the service. So I have to say the service at The River Cafe was fantastic, we had a lovely lady serving us who was bubbly and engaging and clearly loved her job and that was a contagious feeling the whole table took on, we immediately felt at ease and happy for our entire meal. The mood let down slightly when a separate server came over a few times to ask if we wanted additional drinks or dessert as we got the impression they were a little annoyed we weren’t purchasing more. Other than that, it was a wonderful night.
Brave the cold and enjoy some excellent food