When I first heard that Alain Ducasse was opening a Rivea in London, at the Bulgari Hotel, I was rather excited to say the least. Then when Henry invited me to review it with him for the Belgravia Residents Journal, I may have squealed a little. I'll actually be writing the review for the BRJ, so I'll post the link on Twitter when it's out next month!
Rivea in St Tropez has been open for just over a year, and is famous for it's combination of Italian and French food. Rivea in London is no different, with the purpose being to share small plates of Mediterranean cuisine with your companions in an informal atmosphere. The Chef at Rivea London is Damien Leroux, Alain Ducasse's protege who he has been training up for over 10 years in Provence and Monaco.
The Bulgari Hotel oozes class and sophistication, with a sleek modern interior with dark mood lighting and the smell of expensive room scents wafting through the lobby. A live band plays, as we descend down the glossy stairs with the edges draped with beads hanging from the ceiling.
Rivea is being marketed as an 'informal' and relaxed dining experience, however there is nothing informal about it, other than the staff's uniforms. The uniforms are unusual, navy blue cardigans with bow-ties and trousers, and converse shoes. Henry had the ultimate reaction when half way through dinner he goes 'Oh! I thought our waitress had just forgotten her work shoes - but they've all got them on!'.
As Rivea is all about small plates (ie; you get lots of different dishes), I started with Sea Bass Carpaccio with pine nuts, and Asparagus and Parmesan. The Sea Bass was delicious, delicate, and I actually really loved the fact it was served as carpaccio (ie; raw), as usually I'm not a fan of raw foods. The Asparagus (which is currently in season) was perfect; not too crunchy but also not soggy and overcooked. The crispy Parmesan was the perfect accompaniment to it.
Moving on, I had the gnocchi in a rich buttery sage sauce, and then the rib and saddle of lamb. Both were sensational, the gnocchi wasn't too heavy, and the lamb so tender the meat fell of the bone. The potatoes that came with the lamb tasted so good I couldn't stop going on about them, even at dessert Henry commented to the waitress 'those potatoes were so good she won't stop bloody going on about them!'. It's true. I kept saying over and over 'I never knew anyone could make potatoes taste so amazing!'.
For dessert I opted for one of my favourites; Lemon Shortbread. Sadly it was disappointing. The lemon mousse atop was so large and intense that I couldn't even taste the shortbread, sad times. I tried Henry's thin gianduja palet, which was incredible; a thick and rich dark chocolate mousse that was so light and soft in texture it melted on the tip of my tongue. We'd also heard that Rivea's almond ice-cream was to die for, so we ordered a side of it, and it was amazing. I had two scoops of ice-cream; almond, and salted caramel, and both were just brilliant.
As well as the delicious food, we also had the sommelier pair different wines with each course, starting with the aptly named Alain Ducasse champagne. I'm a very fussy champagne drinker, preferring more mature Bruts to young fizz. The Alain Ducasse champagne was probably one of the best I've ever had, which is saying something. The other wines we had throughout the meal were also exceptional, apart from the dessert wine which reminded me of drinking neat whisky. I wasn't a huge fan of that one.
All in all I'd highly recommend Rivea for a special occasion, as despite the fact it definitely isn't an 'informal' restaurant, both the food and service were exceptional. Bravo Mr Ducasse! Now let's see if this one adds another Michelin star to his current 21....
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* We received our meal complimentary for review purposes. This does not in any way influence our thoughts.