• The River Cafe, Hammersmith, London.

The River Café

Touted by London locals and tourists alike as the place to go to in west London, The River Café is much more than its name lets on. Known for being the birthplace of TV phenomenon Jamie Oliver, the River Café is built around the idea that everything about the meal — the prep, the flavors, the ingredients, the aromas — is worth celebrating. Relaunched in 2008 after a steak caught fire and the restaurant went up on flames, the River Café had much to prove: was it still the destination Londoners were devoted to? Could it still capture the exquisite experience of sharing a meal with strangers?

The short answer is: Yes. In a review published in the Telegraph shortly after the reopening, food critic Jasper Gerard noted that “occasionally inventors come up with something so right it transcends fashion: Land Rovers, red telephone boxes, Le Caprice. And now, I think, I’d add the River Café.” Gerard’s sentiment is true. It also doesn’t hurt that most of the menus iconic standouts capture everything beloved about the experience of food: Malfatti con Fagiano (hand-cut pasta with slow-cooked pheasant in Bussola Valpolicella Classico, fennel herb and pancetta) that tastes exactly like Mom made it; Branzino ai Ferri (wild Sea Bass stuffed with lemons, thyme, and marjoram with olives, red winter leaves, and Florence fennel) fresh from the sea; the kind of Coscia d’Agnello ai ferri (chargrilled marinated leg of lamb with chickpeas, cima di rape, and fresh horseradish) you’d imagine would be served exclusively to royalty. But the River Café is designed to keep guests in suspense. The menu changes daily and the restaurant offers handcrafted dishes based upon the seasons. The best part? The restaurant offers a how-to page on their website with recipes to try at home. The restaurant’s impeccable wine list is worth a self-study in its own right.

Reservations can be made online, and it’s worth pointing out that seating typically last upwards of two hours. They’re open daily from Monday through Saturday for dinner from 7 p.m. on. They River Café also offers lunch hours: from 12:30 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and on Sundays from 12 p.m. on.

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