In business since 1987, Ruth Rodgers’ riverside restaurant remains a benchmark for ingredient-led Italian cooking. What’s even more amazing is that it remains every bit as smart and cool as it was the day the doors opened (it was originally created to feed the employees of the Richard Rogers architectural practice, but soon morphed into a space more geared towards serving the public).
The River Café has done more for our understanding of Italian food than any other restaurant in the UK. The regional and seasonal Italian food served at the restaurant was the starting point, but the restaurant’s numerous bestselling cookbooks have perhaps had an even bigger impact on how this all too often misunderstood cuisine is perceived in this country.
Rodgers and her business partner Rose Gray – who died in 2010 – are also responsible for training some of the UK’s best-known food personalities, including Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Many River Café alumni are now running great restaurants of their own, having learnt the sourcing skills and light touch required for truly great Italian cookery.
The menu always includes a wide selection of antipasti, pasta dishes and meat and fish roasted to perfection in the restaurant’s striking neon pink pizza oven.
Broken down regionally, the wine list showcases the breadth and quality of Italian viticulture. To say it’s comprehensive is an understatement: there’s simply no better place in the capital to track down that rare bottle of barolo.