There are few restaurants I’ve been to that have caused such jealousy around Bookatable HQ as Rivea. Even the guy who curates our deals, a man so popular with London restaurants that I’m not even allowed to print his name here, was reduced to begging for an after-coffee mint to be brought back for him. I knew I was heading for something special.
Rivea is the latest project from Alain Ducasse, the man behind one of London’s four restaurants that hold the full three Michelin stars. A large portion of the excitement around this restaurant centres on Damien Leroux, Ducasse’s protégé, who heads up the restaurant team. Leroux is known for his excellent use of vegetables amongst his dishes, and Rivea is his showcase.
Situated in the 5-star Bulgari hotel, the rounded staircase down to the restaurant shows off its elegant yet informal setting. The staff are dressed formally, but with All-star trainers and knitted bow ties. All are friendly and professional, and all know the menu intricately.
Aubergine Caviar, £6
We began with aubergine caviar, a dish so well named it had to be tried. Crisp wafers of aubergine were nestled on a bed of vegetables. The dish had colour, texture and flavour: the ultimate combination. The mix of ingredients went well when smothered over the aubergine slices, perfectly balancing the dish.
Buffalo mozzarella, courgette and basil, £7
Next up, buffalo mozzarella served on a bed of courgette and basil, with a little pesto on top. The mozzarella was smooth, and the pesto soaked into the flavour to add a delicious twist. The bed of courgette and basil added a depth to the dish, rounding out the palate.
Sea bass carpaccio and pine nuts, £11
We also sampled the sea bass carpaccio with pine nuts. The bass has been prepared to act a base for the explosion of flavour that came alongside the pine nuts. With dried tomato and rocket amongst the toppings, the dish was a small, delicate delight.
Chilled courgette velouté, £6
The chilled courgette veloute with fresh almonds was a deceptively complex dish. Served in a bowl, the almonds, along with the courgette served to make the veloute a success. A great, innovative bowl showing off Leroux’s skill.
San Daniele tigelle, £9
Before the pasta course, we opted to try out something from the little bites range. The san danielle tigelle arrived in the form of three freshly baked tigelle breads, stuffed with ham. The tigelle was incredibly flavoursome, providing a match for the ham in terms of taste, rather than a balancing accompaniment. If only I could have this instead of a normal ham sandwich on a cold Tuesday lunchtime…
The sommelier, by this point in the meal, was a familiar face to us. His wine pairing for each course was thoughtful, intelligent and professional. Each course was prefaced by an introduction to the wine we were about to have with the dish, and was thoroughly welcomed by all. Most importantly, the wines were consistently outstanding.
Artichoke and borage ravioli, £9
The pasta course had arrived! The artichoke and borage ravioli was a delicately assembled delight. The ravioli was expertly prepared, and served with wild toppings to really kick the dish up a notch.
Potato/sage/Parmesan gnocchi, £9
The potato, sage and parmesan gnocchi was also something really special. Rich, joyous creamy gnocchi with a hint of seasoning filled the palate with flavour. Served simply on a white plate, the dish reminded me how good gnocchi can really be when prepared correctly.
Roasted duck, tender turnips and beetroots, £14
We followed this up with a couple of Rivea plates. The roasted duck served with tender turnips and beetroot looked and tasted amazing; the beetroot and turnips expertly layered around the duck. The meat itself was cooked medium rare, at my request, and was wonderfully tender. Pink in the middle, and soft to touch, the duck proved that it’s not just vegetables Rivea should be known for.
Sea bass, violon courgette and flowers, £16
We also tried the sea bass with violon courgette and flowers. Served next to a small sauce, the sea bass was cooked well, and the courgette balanced out the dish perfectly. The sauce was well suited to the bass, and rounded out the dish nicely.
Rhubarb and strawberry, almond ice cream, £6
After so many delights, we somehow found room for dessert. The rhubarb and strawberry, with almond ice cream, came in a beautiful pot stuffed full of the dessert, with the fresh fruit cooled by the smooth ice cream. A wonderful dish presented so simply.
Apricot verbena, £5
We finished off with the apricot and verbena. The fruit and ice cream combo is always a classic, but with such fresh apricot it almost felt new again: a really lovely end to a wonderful meal.
Rivea offers so much to its diners – the array of food on offer is staggering, and the dishes are delicious. The staff are warm and friendly, as is the setting. Alain Ducasse and Damien Leroux are onto something really special.
171 Knightsbridge, London, SW7 1DW