Rivea. Not riveting
They didn’t play The Girl from Ipanema, but they might as well have done. Hotel muzak is alive and well. Bulgari (or, according to my autocorrect, Vulgari – it knows) is that wildly expensive jewellery brand, owned by LVMH which now gives its name to an hotel. Expanding the branding.
There are lots of sparkly bits in the decor, maybe as a sort of spangly homage to its origins. It’s the sister restaurant to the Rivea at the Hotel Byblos in St Tropez. I think the other Rivea might have a better view. Or even a view.
I was entirely delighted to have chosen a windowless basement room for dinner, on one of the most beautiful evenings of the year. Reservation fail. But I did get to sashay down the grand curved staircase, with its glittery draped curtain, into a dining room which hadn’t quite got going at 7 pm. And when I say it hadn’t quite got going, what I mean is that it was actually dead. I was the third diner there. It did fill up a little throughout the evening, with a selection of Euro–types and their unruly children. I can’t say that this added to the sum of human happiness.
Whilst waiting and staring at a small, somewhat incongruous display of fruit and vegetables, possibly designed to evoke the markets of Provence, possibly failing, I was brought a plate on which sat nine little pots, filled with flavours. Designed by Alain Ducasse, says the waitress, an introduction to the flavours served in the restaurant. Served with mini breadsticks, these were just gimmicky. The reference to Ducasse is because the chef is a protégé and there is indeed some Ducasse-like skill in the cooking. Just not enough to make up for the soullessness of the whole experience.
The cuisine is that of the French and Italian Rivieras. After having sticker shock in Quattro Passi last week, I was pleasantly surprised at what appeared to be reasonable prices. This is what happens when you don’t read the menu properly at first glance.
Having looked again, I could see that they recommend four to five dishes per person. The waitress asks me if I know how it works. I tell her I have read the menu and know it is sharing plates. She tells us again. I think it’s the law.
And she said that dishes would come when they were ready, but the food was brought out in a very conventional way, cold starters, followed by pasta, then the two fish dishes. So that’s nonsense, not that I’m complaining.
And there were some lovely dishes. Aubergine caviar was particularly good, with thin crisps of aubergine sticking out of it. Then a sort of salad Niçoise combination, wrapped in a socca, which turns out to be a chickpea flour pancake. Not sure I entirely see the point of wrapping a salad in a cold, spongy pancake. You could get a crispy socca, as a side dish. I think I would have preferred that.
The artichoke and borage ravioli was spectacularly good – this was, without doubt, my favourite dish of the evening. The gnocchi with sage came at the same time. Again excellent and delicate, this is clearly their thing.
Seabass with courgettes and their flowers was fine but the flavours felt a bit “playing it safe. Likewise the John Dory and pesto. Just small versions of conventional mains not really sharing plates as such.
Affogato was not on the menu. I persuaded them to make it for me, which they kindly did. £10, it was, when the majority of desserts cost £6. They had charged £5 for one scoop of ice cream and £5 for a shot of espresso. Before 12.5% service. Without question the most expensive affogato I have ever had. Possibly the most expensive in London, or even the world. And why is there a space for a gratuity on the bill when service is added? Harrumph.
And whilst I had a very lovely evening, courtesy of Mr P, property PR ne plus ultra, it wasn’t to really much to do with the restaurant.This is a menu I can see working really well on the Mediterranean Riviera, in the sunshine, but it doesn’t quite have the va va voom to lift this Knightsbridge basement out of the ordinary. Lacking in atmosphere, this is very much an hotel restaurant, with transient guests, little character and good, but expensive food which is not sufficiently interesting to make me want to return, not even to do the film star stairwalk.