The River Cafe

Good food and flawless service, all in a lovely setting on the banks of the Thames. You’d think I’d already be planning a return trip. Well, you’d be wrong.

Ever since opening their doors in the late 80s, The River Cafe has been renowned for serving up some of the best Italian food in London. So I’d heard anyway. You might imagine that it would be right up our street but I’d never seriously considered eating here. Then I got the opportunity to go with some (day job) clients a few weeks ago. Hopefully they didn’t mind the food photography!

River 1

They offer a three course mid-week lunch, priced at £30 per head but the consensus was to go a la carte. One word sprung to mind: expensive. I’d heard that this place is on the pricey side and that’s absolutely the case. Still, they’ve held a Michelin star since 1997 and the restaurant was full, even though it was only a Tuesday afternoon so it’s a premium people are prepared to pay.

Starters were £15-20 with mains ranging from £30-40. I expect a lot for that price. I expect the food to give me a hug reassure to me that it’s all been worth it. All too often though, there’s very little correlation between price and enjoyment.

Wood fired lamb

That said, The River Cafe served up a lunch beyond reproach. Sea bass was beautifully presented and perfectly cooked. Roasted pigeon was lovely and rich. Wood oven roasted lamb was superb – pink and juicy with a genuine char on the outside. It was elegant comfort food – and plenty of it.

Desserts were equally good. Chocolate nemesis was a sliver of the silkiest bitter chocolate tart imaginable. Chocolate, hazelnut and espresso tart tasted like all the good aspects of Nutella, but without the savage sweetness.

river 3
Hazelnut & chocolate tart

When I was researching the menu, I was surprised to see that only a couple of bloggers have eaten here in the last year. And no critics at all. I suppose there are always more pressing posts to write, but I’m glad I got to write this one.

A quick look around the restaurant told me a lot. As well as a few other business lunches, there were several tables of obviously well heeled, mostly mature diners. Many of them are probably regulars too. So just in case you were wondering; no, you won’t be seeing them on Groupon any time soon.


Good food and flawless service, all in a lovely setting on the banks of the Thames. You’d think I’d already be planning a return trip. Well, you’d be wrong.

Our meal for four with a couple of carafes of wine cost £225. For a two course lunch that’s quite a premium. For similar money I could’ve eaten at the likes of the Ledbury and good as The River Cafe is, it’s not in that league.

If you’ve got deep pockets, rest assured that you’ll eat well here but for me there are similarly tasty options out there for a fraction of the price. If I was to return, I’d only do so to try the three course lunch special – that’s where the value is.

Address: Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London W6 9HA

Phone: 020 7386 4200


River Cafe on Urbanspoon

About John Coulson

John Coulson
John moved to London from his native north east in 2007 and co-founded LondonPiggy with his partner Lisa Cheung in 2012. Eventually his passion for street food got too much and he quit his job as a digital marketing director to work full-time in the industry, starting ParmStar in 2015.

Check Also

Reg's corn fed chicken, bbq leek, onions and celeriac cream, Fera

Fera at Claridges

When Fera opened at Claridges last year, we wasted no time in getting a booking ...