His eponymous restaurant at The Dorchester is one of only two London restaurants to reach the revered status of 3 Michelin stars – this restaurant polarises opinions, as does French haute cuisine in general, but I’m a fan of both, especially of the gorgeous Table Lumiere semi private dining space (read about it here).
Hop in a taxi at The Dorch and 5 minutes later you’re in Knightsbridge at The Bulgari Hotel, home to Ducasse’s second London restaurant, Rivea, which he has brought to London via the Cote d’Azur and the Byblos Hotel in St Tropez.
Rivea is meant to transport you to the French Riviera in both cuisine and design with a menu that is inspired by the food markets in Italy and Provence.
However much I would have loved to have been in the South of France with glorious views of the sea on the night of my visit, arriving in a downpour then heading downstairs to a basement dining room in Knightsbridge was a stark reminder that I was not.
At first glance, the dining room doesn’t seem too different from the previous restaurant, Il Ristorante, but the longer I looked at the art deco dining room of dark woods, silvers and creams, and particularly at the carpet of triangles in various shades of blue, the more I liked it.
So, no, I wasn’t in the South of France, but I was in a rather chic dining room in London about to enjoy a dinner from one of the world’s best chefs. Not so shabby after all.
Rivea stays away from Ducasse’s usual fine dining with a menu of small plates, where 4 or 5 plates are recommended: my advice would be to order at least 5 as portion sizes accurately reflect the concept.
Dinner started well with a selection of crudités and an excellent charcuterie board featuring exquisite San Daniele ham.
Starters focused heavily on vegetables and sea food, including sea bass carpaccio and pine nuts, thin strips of buffalo mozzarella with courgettes and basil and lobster gelee – all very nice and beautifully presented but not much more than a couple of mouthfuls each.
Portions became more substantial as we made our way onwards, with rib and saddle of lamb with new potatoes and broad beans being a favourite dish, along with an interesting pasta dish of a thin veil of herb pasta with green asparagus and goat’s curd – both were excellent.
Picturing myself back in the South of France with a day of posing around the pool at the Byblos ahead of me tomorrow, dessert was a delicious grapefruit sorbet – light, intense and refreshing.
Service was sleek, attentive and charming with waiters in cute cardigans, bow ties and converse trainers, perhaps trying too hard to remind us that Rivea London is a more relaxed affair – the excellent soundtrack manages this by itself.