the UK Restaurant and Hotel Zine
When itís summer in the city and the sun is actually playing its part, it is always so wonderful to be able to eat outside. You can, of course, plan for that mythical form of outside entertainment, the barbecue. Sadly, whenever the mind strays towards thoughts of griddled sausages, fish and the like, the rain clouds gather and invariably spoil the plan. The alternative is to find a restaurant with a terrace and, preferably, a view of something a little more exciting (and less of a health hazard) than a main road.
Riviera is such a place: and what spectacular views at that! Located at Gabrielís Wharf (donít bother looking for that in the index of your map Ė try Upper Ground instead), Riviera is right on the Thames with amazing views across the north embankment and towards the City, affording a delightful prospect of St Paulís Cathedral. But you donít have to sit on the terrace to be able to appreciate the vista: Riviera is reminiscent of a boathouse with multiple French windows allowing indoor Ė and therefore warm Ė enjoyment of the locality. A wintertime visit would be just as charming as London is a city that literally glows in the dark.
Spread over two levels, the restaurant uses wood as its main decorative feature with original canvases adorning the walls. It is an ideal venue for dining a deux or for a large party. In either case, a pre- or post-prandial stroll along the Southbank is a must.
Riviera specialises in the tastes of the Mediterranean, using only the freshest and highest quality ingredients: and take note, there is an emphasis on organic produce and a rejection of the genetically modified. The menu is positively mouth watering, modern and yet not pretentious. Each dish uses recognisable ingredients in combinations that can be imagined. We started with salads, mine from the board of daily specials and The Bald Oneís from the regular menu Ė both were exceptionally good. I had a composition of chargrilled vegetables, sun-dried tomatoes and goats' cheese with the greenery provided by healthy quantities of basil leaves. The Bald Oneís was also based on basil leaves and chargrilled vegetables but came with marinated chicken. Either of these dishes would make a fabulous lunch and main course portions are also available.
I can never resist risotto (I always like to compare it to my own) and so for a main course I chose Rivieraís wild mushroom and herb version. It was very creamy and deliciously mushroomy, beautifully complemented by fresh thyme. My only small criticism was that the rice was just a touch over cooked and had lost its al dente bite.
Squid ink pasta is becoming very popular this summer and is at its best when served with fresh seafood. Itís also good fun for the dinerís companions as the pasta eaterís teeth become an interesting black! The Bald One, trendy foodie that he is, went for this option which was one of the daily specials and it certainly lived up to expectation. As always for us, pudding was an extravagance too far to contemplate alone, so we shared organic honeycomb with yoghurt and toasted almonds: the creamy tartness of the yoghurt offset the sweet floweriness of the honeycomb to perfection.
The menu really does offer an excellent selection and provides for all tastes. Starters range from £3.50 for chilled red pepper and tomato soup to £4.75 for the chicken and basil salad. There is a choice of three pastas (all vegetarian) plus the daily specials for £7.95 to £8.95. Entrees include delicious-sounding dishes such as duck with crushed artichokes and honey glaze (£11.25) and gigot of lamb with spicy cous cous (£9.25). But the options do not stop there Ė there are a further 2 fish dishes (chargrilled tuna and cold poached salmon) for £11.25 and £9.95 respectively. Puddings are £4.25 to £4.50 for delights such as chocolate truffle with shortbread and clotted cream, lemon brulee and raspberry cheesecake. There is also a very reasonably priced cheese plate at £3.95.
Alcoholic refreshments would suit most palates with a selection of bottled beers (£2.20 to £2.40) and wine at £9.95 to £16.95 per bottle. Four wines are also available by the glass and there is a decent selection of spirits.
Riviera is a welcome new addition to the London restaurant scene and offers an exciting but reasonably priced menu. Its superb location makes it a terrific place to visit year round for both the Londoner and the visitor.
Lisa Teoh, July 1999
56 Upper Ground
London SE1 9PP
Tel: 0207 401 7314
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