Harden's survey result
Ruth Rogers’ “thrilling” canteen, in an “out-of-the-way” Hammersmith backstreet (originally founded to serve husband, Richard’s, architectural practice) has won global renown on the back of “perfectly seasoned” Italian dishes “of such bare simplicity the quality of the phenomenal ingredients truly sing”. “On a hot day, there’s no better spot in London” than its “delightful” outside terrace near the Thames; and in cooler weather, its “faithfully preserved 1990s-chic” interior, though “tightly packed”, mostly gets the thumbs-up too – “bathed in light at lunch, or with a certain buzzing energy in the evening”. It’s the “ferocious prices”, though, which bitterly divide reporters, and which yet again win it No. 1 billing in our list of Most Overpriced restaurants. To its more ardent fans, the situation is clearcut: “forget the haters” – “if you think it’s overpriced, you simply don’t understand food!” Very many other diners, however, are badly torn: “I know, I know, I know: it’s an institution, a pioneer, an icon! And I value it hugely for its contribution to the London scene. The room is still one of my favourites. The food is delectable. But let’s be honest: we have many excellent Mediterranean restaurants all across town nowadays, and a grilled piece of fish, a slice of lemon tart, and a glass of Vermentino isn’t really worth half-a-week’s wages!!”
“An amazing place that’s still full on a midweek winter evening after 30 years” – Hammersmith’s world-famous, riverside Italian shows no sign of running out of steam: “it still feels fresh and contemporary”, “Ruthie Rogers herself is still there doing some of the cooking”, and it remains a standard-bearer for “the simplicity and clarity” of its Tuscan cuisine. The perennial elephant in the room here is “wallet-busting” prices, which regularly win this W6 legend the survey’s booby prize as London’s Most Overpriced Restaurant. Even so, most reporters are inclined to be forgiving: they “love the place despite the absurd cost”, particularly those who appreciate “the very best, carefully sourced ingredients”; who adore the “helpful staff”; or who acclaim “the glorious outside terrace in summer”, which “can’t be matched”. A sizeable minority, though, “know all the arguments as to why the place is worth it… but don’t agree”. A prime gripe for those who feel the most taken for a ride is the “crazy bills you get for sitting in what’s basically a big canteen”: while fans applaud this egalitarian set-up as “a perfect mix between formality and informality”, the less charitable find it “noisy” and “crammed in” (“my chair was frequently banged into by waiters squeezing past”).
“The sheer genius and simplicity of always-exciting Tuscan food prepared from ingredients of unparalleled quality” have won global renown for this “unique”, “off-the-beaten-track Italian, in the obscure backstreets of Hammersmith. Its prices, however, are “daylight robbery” – and while its army of fans say that “if you believe it’s overpriced, you don’t get its concept of provenance, care and integrity”, an equally large band of sceptics “appreciate the top-quality sourcing, but still think charges are absurd for rustic dishes (it might be cheaper to fly to Italy for the day, dine and fly back...”). And the atmosphere? “On a summer evening you could not ask for a better location” than its Thames-side terrace, but when it comes to eating inside first-timers can be surprised at how “hectic and noisy” its canteen-like set-up can be; service meanwhile veers from “charming” to “indifferent”. Still, it’s always full, so you can’t blame them” and “if I was a billionaire I’d go every week!”
“So special, but also so nose-bleedingly expensive” – that’s the perennial trade-off at Ruth Rogers’s world-famous café, whose celebrity is totally at odds with its backstreet Hammersmith location, in a Thames-side wharf shared with hubbie Lord Richard Roger’s architectural practice (till the latter moved this year). For its many advocates, it’s “the holy grail of restaurants” featuring “phenomenal ingredients” (a “true definition of provenance and quality”) on “an ever-changing menu” displaying both “simplicity and complexity”; and all this delivered in a “light and buzzing”, “minimalist warehouse-style dining room” next to a riverside terrace that’s “stunning on a sunny day”. On the downside, service can be “smug”, and even those sold on its virtues often leave feeling the prices make it “a glaring con”: “it’s good, but with this price point attached, it’s such a poor representation of the heart, passion and grass roots of Italian cooking, and when you get the bill, you just feel nothing is worth this much!” (Plans for a new Mayfair branch are currently on hold.)
The River Café Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Arrived a few minutes early but was shown to my sear in the very busy restaurant with a great river view. The menu isn’t the largest I have ever seen but there is a great variety to fit most palates. Starter was a quite exceptional squid dish, perfectly cooked with a lovely dressing. Had hoped to have the cyputtle fosh, but a bit too cheesy for me. Main was a superbly cooked Anjou pigeon, replaced the cheese veg with a Florence fennel and porcini which was wonderful. Dessert was a chocolate “cake” that was more like a mousse and wonderfully flavoured. Staff are very efficient and friendly. Charles is delightful and great to chat to. My only grouse would be toilets are a little small, but as a dining experience it was stunning, and fabulous to have an open kitchen so could watch the brigade working. It is not a cheap meal, but then you pay for quality Was it worth the long journey from Essex, oh yes!"
"You are treated like a commodity. There is no heart in the River Cafe anymore. although the food is good, it's not good enough at the price without the staff making more of an effort or giving any sense of an occasion. They should send them to la Trompette or Chez Bruce to see what service in a top end restaurant should look and feel like. We won't be going again any time soon."
"Delicious Italian cuisine at this SW London destination venue. Somewhat overpriced but youthful and exuberant service did a very good job."
"Good food but it was the general lively ambience which made it a special evening"
"Ok, its expensive, hard to reserve a table and off the beaten track . But if there is a better Italian restaurant in London we don't know it . They could put the outrageous prices up further and it would still be full because after 30 plus years it is still the best and every visit is a treat."
"If you want foams and fireworks for nosebleed prices then this is not your place. If you are looking for brilliantly sourced and cooked food for nosebleed prices then this is your place. Staff and service informal and charming. Room can’t be beat on a summers day."
"Best Italian restaurant outside of London."
"Very expensive for what it is."
|Wine per bottle||£33.00|
Thames Wharf, Rainville Rd, London, W6 9HA
|Monday||12:30 pm‑11 pm|
|Tuesday||12:30 pm‑11 pm|
|Wednesday||12:30 pm‑11 pm|
|Thursday||12:30 pm‑11 pm|
|Friday||12:30 pm‑11 pm|
|Saturday||12:30 pm‑11 pm|
|Sunday||12 pm‑5:30 pm|