As with any great city with a river running through its centre, London has no shortage of demand from its residents for places to sit by the water of an evening and enjoy the serenity. It’s fair to say that a huge portion of strand real estate is taken up by pubs, which is no bad thing of course (and indicative of how much the city enjoys a drink!) For the actual restaurants on the banks of the Thames, peace and quiet sometimes falls by the wayside, which is just one of the prices of living in a city as busy as London.
There is a restaurant though, which is quite unlike any other in London. Although, you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were somewhere with far more of a Monaco vibe when being shown to your table here. Tucked away in Chelsea Harbour’s small marina of luxury yachts and lovingly maintained sailing boats sits Chelsea Riverside Brasserie. The moment you step inside, it becomes clear that this is a restaurant that was made to make the very most of its enviable setting – floor to ceiling windows, opened up to let the evening air and complete lack of city noise in, reveal a stunning sweeping terrace area. With tables running along its entire length, there is no one best seat in the house, with the entire enclave of the harbour catching the best of the evening sunshine.
A restaurant like this could easily fall back on its setting to draw in eager diners, but its placement inside the 5* The Chelsea Harbour Hotel is all the indication you need that the menu is taken every bit as seriously as the exclusivity of the setting. A luxurious tour of European cuisine includes simple, classic Mediterranean flavours, through to the indulgent creams of French recipes.
Because of our nautical backdrop, we thought it only right to begin with a fish option from the antipasti menu. Pan-seared scallops, chorizo, peas and pea purée came beautifully presented – the delicate golden crust of the scallops gave a subtle smokiness to the flavour, while the chorizo had all the rich bite that you would expect from this Spanish staple. The pea puree was also wonderfully thick, making it a perfect sauce to run the scallops through (sadly making short work of the stylish presentation of the dish!).
For our second starter, we kept things simple with a beef carpaccio. Sliced impossibly thin, the beef’s colour was a beautifully striking blend; from the crimson of the edges, to a deep cardinal on the inside. Almost melting on the tongue, the beef was given a slightly sweet edge by the cheese accompaniment, while the rocket leaves added their subtle bitterness to the mix perfectly.
Thanks to how incredible the scallops were, we were eagerly awaiting the fish main course we’d selected. Served in a tomato broth whose colour shone with a fiery red hue, the seared sea bass came accompanied with broccoli, artichokes, and pan-fried gnocchi. A dish with a sauce as visually arresting sauce as this is going to run the risk of being overpowered by its taste, but this was not the case here. The broth had a subtle piquancy to it that never became too intense, leaving the sea bass to retain its valued saltiness. The gnocchi was faultless – light, simply seasoned, and an ideal pairing with the broth.
We moved to the carne section of the menu for our second main, choosing lamb cannon and belly, Chantenay carrots, pea purée, truffle potato, and rosemary jus. It can’t be overstated just how juicy both cuts of lamb were – the meat had soaked up and retained all of the juices, including much of the rosemary jus. In contrast to the vivid colours and daring Mediterranean tweaks of the sea bass, the lamb was a prime example of sterling British tradition, where the finest quality meat and simple flavours to complement it result in a dish that has become a cornerstone of fine dining.
With Italy celebrated for its desserts, the sight of a tiramisu on the menu made with marscapone was always going to be one of our choices. Again, like the dishes that came before it, the presentation, and resulting anticipation to dig in was superb. With long slivers of dark chocolate balanced on top, the tiramisu was indulgently thick, while the sponge inside was thin enough to not bind the dessert together too much when pushing the spoon through it. The dark chocolate on top was worth far more than its weight, especially when you used it as a makeshift edible spoon itself.
With another colourful flourish chosen, our second dessert of lemon tart with burnt meringue arrived. The tart itself had a thick, almost chilled lemon curd consistency to it, while the base had a soft, glazed quality to it that reminded us of a danish pastry. It was a combination we weren’t expecting, but were incredibly happy to receive. The burnt meringue’s caramelised top gave an added sweetness that was a great balance to the lemon, and also the strawberries and ice cream accompaniment.
All throughout the meal, the occasional sound of the water just beside the restaurant, paired with the stunning lighting around the marina subtly came on as the sunset played out, created a quite unique ambience for a restaurant in London. There are many dining settings in the city that offer dramatic views from dizzying heights, but having a location that feels this exclusive and unknown is something that isn’t easily found. To have such a stunning backdrop for a restaurant is one thing, but the European flair that features throughout the menu, coupled with the extensive wine list, makes this a restaurant that occupies its own area of the London dining scene. If you can afford one of the liners that is moored in Chelsea Harbour, you wouldn’t need to dine elsewhere, with this on your doorstep.
Chelsea Riverside BrasserieThe Chelsea Harbour Hotel, Chelsea Harbour, London, SW10 0XG