I do not understand how this restaurant is still in business. The proposition is flawed.
Being Italian and a food enthusiast I was excited to try a restaurant with such a good reputation for producing great food and whose kitchen has trained the likes of Jamie Oliver and Theo Randall. Despite lacking what I would define "the chef's touch", the food was good. Excellent ingredients, nicely put together and cooked in accordance with Italian traditions. No issues there. Unfortunately everything else was disappointing, especially when put into perspective of the price. This is not a one-off, this is a structural problem.
It was a rainy day and we walked in with dripping wet umbrellas. No one asked us to leave them at reception and no one seemed to really care. In the end we had them next to our table! The table we had initially booked was outside, on the terrace. Unfortunately it was raining very hard ad having lunch outside would have been impossible. So we asked to be moved inside. This created an incomprehensible aura of confusion among the staff. When we were eventually moved we were given a rather strict time limit. Shouldn't a place like this plan for such eventualities?
Perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps rain in London is "force majeure" and I should just accept the unusual circumstances. This excuse does not however apply to the sommelier who acted like he had to be somewhere else and rushed us through our wine selection skipping over the question we had asked.
All the above would be acceptable if this was a Trattoria in the countryside charging £20 per person. But it is not. This is a Michelin starred restaurant with consequent prices and guests expect something more and $80 pounds per person for a well executed plate of pasta served on a paper table-cloth accompanied by mediocre service is just unacceptable. This is the essence of the problem. The food is good but in a good day most of us can cook it at home with humble ingredients. So what is the value proposition of this restaurant? If The River Cafe is going for the friendly/casual experience why are the prices so high? If they are going for a great dining experience why is the service so mediocre?
In the end it is most likely this restaurant will continue being successful on the back of its good reputation and will continue attracting customers for which the marginal cost of money is zero or for which a good plate of pasta is worth a great deal of money. Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, I am not one of them.
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