Rivea is billed as a contemporary and chic Italian and French restaurant in the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge, London. The Head Chef is Alexandre Nicolas, a protege of the famous Alain Ducasse, the proprietor of the three-Michelin starred Alain Ducasse at the [nearby] Dorchester.
Service and Decor at Rivea
Being set in the upmarket Bulgari Hotel, and being part of the Ducasse heritage, you would expect Rivea to excel in this area, and it almost delivers perfectly. The bar is wonderful balance of light and open with dark and bold furnishings; decent olive and crispbread nibbles are served with the aperitif and the selection is broad. Service wise, all the staff are knowledgeable and enthusiastic and avoided, because we were dining early (and had the restaurant virtually to ourselves), the inevitable temptation to be overly attentive as a result.
The only criticism I will make in this area is at the choice of the crockery for two courses; the special dessert and the mozzarella starter were served in dimpled glass affairs. The former was just a plate, but the latter was a bowl reminiscent of the worst vessel for this dish in its “heyday”. Sometimes small details matter, and against such a well engineered and attentively designed backdrop, these small details stand out.
The wine list was broad and deep, focusing exclusively on the wines of France and Italy, in keeping with the general theme at Rivea. It did miss out reds from the Loire region, which I note only because regular readers will know they are my favourite, but they did have an excellent 2008 Pinot Noir from the Bourgogne – I admit I was scared that it wouldn’t have aged well (Pinot Noir is not a grape that does) but the Sommelier that had hand-chosen it was on hand and was thoroughly right to commend it.
Food at Rivea
The chosen approach for us, having an early dinner, was a set menu comprising of 3 smaller plates (split between “starters” and a so-called “Rivea plate” which is the “main”) and a dessert; an approach that is slowly gaining more traction not least as it allows you to sample a wider range of the Chef’s talents. Starters for me were were a crocotte of seasonal vegetables; this was a ramekin sized portion made up of some small and finely prepared seasonal vegetables in a splash of an excellent stock and a “Rivea salad” in a socca (chickpea flour pancake). The latter was a well dressed nicoise-style salad, well dressed and seasoned served in a pancake like an ice cream and given just enough crisp to give a good textural dimension. This is an idea I shall take forward into the home kitchen at some point soon. Friend had aubergine caviar (aubergine purée with a hint of garlic and lemon) and then mozzarella, courgette and basil. Crockery aside, both were well executed and all benefited from a near infinite supply of artisanal bread (served with oil and butter, with sea salt (win) on the side) and of course the amouse bouche of breadsticks and 8 individual and eclectic pots of various purées to dip.
The “main course” or, more properly, the “Rivea Plate” for me was a sage and Parmesan potato gnocchi. This showcases the mediterranian theme well – simple and done brilliantly. The gnocchi were simultaneously firm and of smooth and fluffy texture, with just the right amount of sage and some Parmesan crisps to give some crunch. Friend had chicken with macaroni gratin. I didn’t taste the chicken, but am told it was good; I can attest to the “macaroni cheese” being excellent (I’m taking some elements of that I picked up on the palate forwards into my kitchen too).
Putting for me was a tiramisu, which was made with a decent amount of espresso coffee, but for me, could’ve done with a little more sponge (and maybe going in with some amaretto or something for a decadent, albeit maybe not strictly authentic edge); tiramisu is a highly subjective dish and having had the benefit (or maybe the curse) of experiencing the homemade style of a true Italian Mama, I am perhaps a very harsh critic. This was followed by some petit fours, which were essentially a rose water flavoured profiterole which cleaned the palate nicely.
Conclusion on Rivea
There’s some esoteric criticism herein; but it is largely a solid, well executed experience. But, for me, it’s lacking something. I know it’s a cliche, but there’s a certain “je ne sais quoi” absent in Rivea.
If you want a good small plate experience, I’d say go to Gordon Ramsay’s Maze and if you want three-Michelin star protege dining, then go see Marcus Wareing’s (himself a two-starred former protege of the three-starred Gordon Ramsay) at the excellent Gilbert Scott or for a great early evening dining set menu, see the Michelin-starred Benares. If you happen to be in Knightsbridge and want a solid lunch in good looking surroundings, then by all means, you won’t go far wrong with Rivea.
|Restaurant Name||Rivea London|
|Price Range||£85 a head (set menu, decent bottle of wine)|
|Phone||0207 151 1025|
|Address||Bulgari Hotel & Residences, 171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW|