Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Rivington Bar and Grill

The Rivington Bar and Grill

It’s not often that you get a recommendation for a restaurant from the taxi driver that’s taking you there. As we negotiated streets still littered with the debris of the gales we had over the previous few days, which meant a series of odd little jinks and detours in the journey, the driver was enthusiastic about the salt beef and green been starter that he’d had the Greenwich outpost of The Rivington Grill, sister to the Shoreditch restaurant where we were then heading.

The London taxi driver is a creature of mythological status amongst Londoners. So much so, that you’ll hear most of us drop into bizarre cockney accents the minute we step into a black cab out of reverence. It’s like trying to teach girlfriends the offside rule using objects found on breakfast table (not the girlfriend, it has to be said, she can name all the FA cup winners going back to 1936) or feeling compelled to break poppadums with a karate style chop, it just one of those things that men in London feel compelled to do. I stress men here as I’ve never seen a woman do it. I just think that women don’t feel threatened by the encyclopedic knowledge of London streets that the London cabbie has rattling about in their heads. The Knowledge is something of a fascination for most men; the fact that here’s a bloke that theoretically knows EVERY SINGLE street in London fill us with boyish wonder, and we’d hate for the taxi driver to think we were deficient in that quintessentially masculine way, i.e. knowing directions. Now it appears they are spouting restaurant reviews.

The only time I have ever followed a taxi cab drivers advice on finding somewhere to eat was when I complained to an Indian taxi driver in Seattle that I couldn’t find decent Indian food in the US, this after we’d been discussing the cricket all the way from the airport. He dropped me at my hotel, waited for me to check in and then drove me to his cousin’s restaurant a few blocks away free of charge and had a word to give me the good stuff. Best curry I’ve ever had in the US hands down.

Back outside the Riverside Grill, as the cabbie dropped us off, he jumped out and checked the menu. They didn’t have the salt beef on, but he could recommend the Barnsley Lamb Chop, which was excellent.

The restaurant and bar is a spartan white space with dark wood furnishings with a line in British back to basics regional cooking of which the aforementioned Barnsley Lamb Chop was representative. It’s a lovely sounding menu, with some tantalising inclusions. A fried duck egg with baby squid and bacon was an intriguing starter, if a little humdrum in execution. The Onion and Cider soup was better, simplicity itself, with warm comforting flavours shining through. The lamb chop with kidneys attached was stunning, again simple, but letting the simple pleasure of the two textures work together. The accompanying bubble and squeak was a treat. Other mains were mixed. The Fish Fingers with chips and mushy peas were a touch ordinary for ten quid fish fingers, though I figure this might actually be on the menu for kids. The Suckling Pig with Greens and Quince Sauce on the other hand was superb. Desserts were ample and I couldn’t finish the Apple Crumble with Custard which I’m sure they could advertise as being for two.

The service, however, was frankly bizarre. At the start of the meal the sole waiter in our section was attentive, if not terribly clued up on the menu. Unfortunatly he then proceeded to grow increasingly erratic and then towards the end just plain odd, with repeated requests for some sugar for one of our espressos going unheeded until I went and got some off the bar.

When he finally brought the bill I raised an eyebrow at the price, it’s a little steep for what amounts to simple British cooking, though the quality of produce and execution is generally very good. I might have to take the cabbies advice and check out the Greenwich outpost, he was right about the chop, so I can probably trust him on the salt beef.

The Rivington Bar and Grill: 28-30 Rivington Street, Shoreditch, London Tel: 020 7729 7053


Anonymous said...

Cabbies have taught me the coolest things. I've heard about their anti-mugging system in explicit detail as well as why some people still prefer to pay from outside despite the sliding window: it's a throwback from the old carriages. Oh, they also make a TON of money and most have holiday homes in Florida.

Anonymous said...

It's not all a one-way street when it comes to paying. The other day our cabbie insisted on us getting out before we paid. Odd. Personally I always do, mostly, I think, because of the frisson of getting something for nothing, albeit only for a few seconds.

Good call on the Rivington, Nick. A firm favourite but not without its faults. I can't forgive them for closing the deli. Best bacon sandwiches outside my kitchen.