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Thursday 29 May 2014

Rivea - Pavilion

I definitely didn't eat two 4-course meals in the same day. Promise, Mum.

Tuesday 27th May - Half-term is always a good opportunity for me to jump in on one of my Dad's lunch reservations, and Alain Ducasse's Rivea was his next appointment.  We were recently in the area for Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental, but went the opposite direction out of Knightsbridge tube this time to the Bulgari Hotel.

The walk to Rivea takes you past an enticing patisserie selection in the lounge and a rather stylish bar, before you make a grand entrance down the vast spiral staircase.

It's a glamorous dining room, and the food was delightful throughout, though I found myself agreeing with pretty much everything Fay Maschler said about it, so you might as well read that first - Fay Maschler's Evening Standard review.  

Photo Credit : Pierre Monetta

A windowless room with a handful of diners present doesn't make for the best lunch atmosphere, but that didn't stop me enjoying 4 well crafted courses (of the "small plate" variety) from Chef Damien Leroux, an Alain Ducasse protégé.  He was a very friendly (and youthful) chap who came out all smiles and had a nice chat with us at the end of the meal.

Damien Leroux and Alain Ducasse - Photo Credit : Pierre Monetta

Anyway, I seem to be doing this write-up in the wrong order.  Let's have a look at the food & drink!

We started with a couple of drinks from an extensive cocktail list. A Negroni-inspired Appellation was a great success, and my Dad appreciated a better than average mocktail list, with several concoctions involving interesting teas.

Negroni inspired Appellation
We nearly finished all of the superb bread sticks with beetroot dip before Chris, the third member of our lunch party arrived.  These were accompanied by a moreish bread basket that was refilled throughout the meal with great gusto.

We went for the £35 lunch deal which gets you a couple of starters (including pasta dishes), a slightly fancier Rivea dish, dessert, 1/2 bottle of water and coffee - not too shabby.

First out of the gates were Garden Pea Soup with Tuscan Pecorino Ravioli, Gamberoni with Delicate Lobster "Gelée" and Warm Octopus & Potato Salad.  The soup was poured over my ravioli at the table, a presentation device which they used several times.

Warm Octopus & Potato Salad - Photo Credit : Pierre Monetta

Next up was Artichoke & Borage Ravioli (standout dish) and Potato/Sage/Parmesan Gnocchi, both of which disappeared very quickly.

Gnocchi - Photo Credit : Pierre Monetta

Artichoke & Borage Ravioli - Photo Credit : Pierre Monetta

On to the Rivea plates. Chris, having earlier peer-pressured Father Jim off going for asparagus on the grounds that he could have it at home, comically ordered Chicken & Macaroni Cheese, or rather Corn-fed Chicken Breast & Macaroni au gratin.  It received two thumbs up for what it's worth.  We also went for Rib & Saddle of Lamb with New Potatoes & Broad Beans and Baked John Dory Riviera Style - the latter was the pick of the bunch.

Rib & Saddle of Lamb with New Potatoes & Broad Beans

None of the desserts particularly grabbed my attention, but both that we ordered improved with tasty extras that weren't mentioned on the menu.  The Thin Gianduja Palet benefited from salted caramel ice cream, whilst my pallet-cleansing pot of Rhubarb & Strawberry with Almond Ice Cream came to life with the addition of crunchy sweet parmiers.  Cute hazelnut & chocolate biscuits also arrived with our coffees to round off a lovely lunch.

Thin Gianduja Palet
Rhubarb & Strawberry with Almond Ice Cream & Parmiers - Photo Credit: Pierre Monetta

Chocolate & hazelnut biscuits
The verdict? Lashings of top notch food in an imperfect location make Rivea a fine new dining spot but not an essential one.  The lunch deal is brilliant though, especially as you have the whole of the A La Carte menu to choose from, unlike Dinner by Heston's more restrictive £38 3-course menu (which also lacks coffee & bottled water).

Oh yeah, half of the staff wear cardigans and converses - this is big news apparently.
Tuesday 27th May - On an entirely different day, definitely not 4 hours after lunch at Rivea, I met Sister Jo at a soggy High Street Kensington for some preview dinner and drinks at Pavilion which opens this Friday (30th May).  Waiting for us in the kitchen was Adam Simmonds, previously of Michelin starred Adam Simmonds Restaurant at Danesfield House.  There was plenty to do before eating though... 

As we dripped our way through the front doors, we were greeted by Pavilion's sunny in-house florist who was overseeing hand-made bouquets by Paul Morris. We then walked past Abel at the deli counter filled with cheeses, cured meats and freshly baked bread - grab a seat here and you probably won't make it to the restaurant!  We finally settled down somewhere equally distracting (and stunning) - the magnificent central bar.

Photo Credit : Will Pryce // Artwork on far wall by Simon Casson

Soon to be our new best friend, Alessandro was putting the finishing touches to an *All Day* Three Martini Lunch (three modest martinis made with Chase Vodka, Sipsmith Gin & Cream Gin).  We knew we were in good hands.

All Day Three Martini Lunch

Round 1 - An attractive but tough to drain Buttered Julep with brown buttered bourbon, mint, sage & bitters elicited the first of many enthusiastic comments from Jo - "That is one of the best things I have EVER put in my mouth" referring to the essential ingredient of buttered Four Roses that we sampled.

Her Whisky Sour with a twist matched Compass Box Asyla with sherry vinegar, lemon juice, apple juice, honey and egg white - less overtly boozy than I would like but well-balanced and interesting.

Whisky Sour and Buttered Julep

There was more playful presentation in Round 2 with a Steely Vieux Carre (High West Rye, Pierre Ferrand, Benedictine, Bitters) from their "Bottled Cocktail" list, and an Espresso Martini with an adorable edible plant from their "Nouvelle Cuisine Cocktail" selection.  Apparently you can buy the pre-bottled cocktails to takeaway along with treats from the deli counter.

The Espresso Martini was created with coffee infused Vestal Vodka, whilst the edible plant soil was made of chocolate and ginger.  Jo eventually poured her plant in to the martini after a few nibbles.

Steely Vieux Carre

Espresso Martini

More quirky drinks flew past to other lucky punters, most notably a Sweet Pepper Bloody Maria and a Fresa Colada (Diplomatico rum, coconut, and fresh strawberry served with a vanilla & black olive gel on toast).

Fresa Colada

Eventually we were dragged from Alessandro, kicking & screaming all the way until we realised that our new seats for dinner were just on the other side of the island bar.  We waved and turned our thoughts to food.

Head Chef Adam was metres away, calmly overseeing his open kitchen.  VIPs can sit up at the chef's counter, which is always fun but often also very hot! We were happy with our view from the bar, from where we could also see the impressive meat dry-aging chambers

Head Chef - Adam Simmonds

Time for the main event - well, starters first of course.  Jo began with what turned out to be the best dish of the night - Slow-cooked pork belly, homemade black pudding, Scottish langoustine, smoked pineapple, lardo. Fascinating mix of flavours, led by an outstanding example of black pudding.  

My super fresh scallop ceviche with lemon confit, baby gems and green almonds was adorned with vanilla and camomile bubbles - a bizarrely sweet but fun way to start the meal.

Slow-cooked pork belly, homemade black pudding, Scottish langoustine, smoked pineapple, lardo

Scallop ceviche, lemon confit, baby gems, green almonds, vanilla & camomile
Mains arrived soon after in the form of Cod and Halibut.  My Cod "A La Plancha" came with the advertised smoked Boston butt pork, sweet cabbage and roasting juices as well as some mystery (and fully appreciated) beans & mushrooms.  More bold flavours handled well by Adam & co.

Jo's Halibut was poached & served with coal cooked celeriac, pickled onion, Granny Smith apple,  and truffle beurre blanc - more superlatives followed, insert your own here.

Cod ‘a la plancha’, smoked Boston butt pork, sweet cabbage, roasting juices

Poached halibut, coal cooked celeriac, pickled onion, Granny Smith apple, truffle beurre blanc
I clearly didn't have my sweet teeth in that day, as once again the desserts weren't tempting me as much as they should have, but I eventually settled on Apple - Apple mousse, butterscotch, compressed apple, pine nut purée.  It was a strange little dish, which I most definitely enjoyed, but I wasn't entirely sure what I was eating most of them time, and butterscotch was hard to come by.

Jo opted for Buttermilk - Buttermilk mousse, orange blossom ‘pain perdu’, orange granité.  The "lost bread" was a squishy delight - hopefully Adam will pass on his secret so I can pimp my brunch next time.

Apple mousse, butterscotch, compressed apple, pine nut purée

Buttermilk mousse, orange blossom ‘pain perdu’, orange granité
We finished with a showstopping plate of 10 cheeses, each with different garnish.  Abel from the deli counter came over to chat through them all, instructing us to start with the goats cheese varieties, before moving on to the smoked corner and ending with some serious blue stuff.  Garnishes like pistachio crumble & hazelnut mousse added an extra layer of fun and flavour. Make sure you order it.

I couldn't leave without one last Alessandro libation.  He whipped up a punchy variant on a Negroni with Vida mezcal, Aperol and Antica Formula - do try this at home.

A 10 cheese journey
Wow, they really hit the ground running.  I was surprised to walk out into Kensington at the end of it all - Pavilion is just what this area needs.  designLSM deserve a shout out for the awesome job they have done with the interior.  As for the food & drink, Adam, Abel and Alessandro all deserve an extra A for their efforts.

Pavilion will soon be the proud owners of a private terrace for up to 40 guests, accessible to ‘Social’ members of the attached business members’ club which has been renamed Pavilion (it was previously known as Dryland). Social membership at Pavilion is available for £95 per month and offers guests priority bookings in the restaurant, access to the terrace, and use of Pavilion’s business members’ club facilities.  

Don't worry though, you don't need to be a member to pay a visit to the florist, the bar, the deli and the restaurant! Get over there soon before everyone realises how good it is.

Square Meal

Square Meal

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