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October 7, 2009updated 29 Jan 2016 11:06am

The Discriminator Dines Out

By Alessandro Tome

BEFORE YOU ASK, no, I am not going to write about Italian restaurants only, although there is plenty to write about. And no, I am not going to write about my third visit to the ‘best restaurant in the world’ (not my definition) El Bulli, near Barcelona.

So you will not hear how it is better than ever, you will not read about the mimetic peanuts, the eatable pine needles, the translucent parmesan ravioli, truffle surprise, pine kernel bags dipped in pine water or even the coconut milk ice balloon and yoghurt meringue with yoghurt foam. Oh, and the chocolate box you so want to steal. No, not for the Spear’s reader all that.

But I will write about a rediscovery for me, closer to our shores, even if to some going to Barnes sounds like going to Barcelona. Although some may say that nowadays you can fly to Gerona and get to El Bulli nearly as fast as you can get to Barnes with traffic, I will answer that only Ryanair flies there and you are better off flying to Kigali than set foot on a Ryanair plane if you want to be treated like a human. But more importantly, I will say that having dinner at Riva is worth any time it will take to get there. And yes, it also is Italian.

I was taken there the first time by Elizabeth Hurley and had a memorable meal, but thought to put it down to her presence, not only from an aesthetic point of view, but also for a likely redoubled kitchen effort. And so I decided to go again, accompanied this time by a charming if odd Franco-English couple.

Only odd in that she is a beautiful, eccentrically English woman and he is French and therefore hates the English. He is reputedly quite difficult in general, but particularly about culinary issues — so much so that he tends to ship most of his food in from France whenever forced to be here. As I am thought of being difficult myself — somewhat unfairly, I must stress — it seemed a perfect acid test for Riva.

We cannot remember exactly what we ate as we chose not to order but to let Andrea Riva decide on our fare. And a lot of fare it was, but all of it very, very good. All I can say is that we ate everything he brought us with gusto and left with enormous smiles on our faces, with the feeling of having shared one of those special meals. It was absolutely sumptuous in quality, quantity and variety, and we have decided to make it as regular an event as our wives and our expanding girths will allow. Skip Ryanair and go there. Trust me, as they say.

169 Church Road, Barnes,
London SW13 9HR
Tel: +44 (0)20 8748 0434

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