A basement dining room may not sound like the likely place to conjure up the sunny, chic South of France, but the chef with a constellation of stars (as the French like to say) has managed to do exactly that at the Bulgari Hotel in Knightsbridge. Alain Ducasse has brought the flavours of the French and Italian Riviera to his latest London restaurant; Rivea. The chef also has a starred restaurant of the same name in St. Tropez, although you get the feeling that he isn’t trying to achieve the same thing. The food here is typically Ducasse, but in a more accessible style. Everything is about the produce being the best possible. The ripeness of the fruit, the depth of taste in the vegetables and the texture of the meat. These exquisite elements are then combined in traditional flavour combinations. The results are beautiful small dishes to share.
Freshness and lightness are key themes that run across the menu too. The buffalo mozzarella, courgette and basil salad epitomise this. Crunch, richness and an acidic zing, helped along by a good glug of Mediterranean olive oil. The excellent marinated sea bream with pink grapefruit shows that there is more than one place to have ceviche in London. The aubergine caviar is smoky and full of flavour. The fruit has been reduced to a velvety purée, flecked with its seeds and some spices to create a delicious dip.
The blue lobster (blue before it’s cooked) is simply poached and finished in a pan with a touch of butter. Soft artichoke slithers give a nutty, lemony flavour. Crisp endive leaves with some sautéed vegetables keep a fresh note, while a reduced veal stock provides a hint of richness to coat the other elements; a very nice dish.
Desserts too are very good. The lemoncello sorbet is so vibrant and tart that it can only remind you of eating (or drinking) the same thing by the Med. It sits on a crisp, zesty lemon shortbread and is coated by flakes of meringue. The chocolate tart is deep and luxurious. Crisp on the outside with a soft ganache in the middle.
Overall, Rivea is a delight because everything is so beautifully plated, tastes amazing and is fresh and light. It’s perhaps a great place to go with a group of friends that shared a Mediterranean holiday, so that you can rekindle your sunny memories together.