169 Church Road, Barnes, London, England, SW12 9SG, United Kingdom

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Riva is a simple Italian neighbourhood restaurant just on the edge of prosperous Castelnau (the address is Church Road but in fact it is in Castelnau itself). Even on a weekday the place was packed out with locals. The dining room is unprepossessing, with misdirected lighting. The menu had quite a wide range of Italian dishes, with starters from £9 - £13.50, main courses £13 - £28, with vegetables extra at £3.

The Italian wine list started at £18.50, with the pleasant Planeta Chardonnay 2007 at £44 for a wine that will set you back around £17 retail, the lovely Vintage Tunina 2006 at £77 for a wine that costs £29, while at the upper end of the list the superb Antinori Tignello 2006 was £120 compared to a retail price of £51. Bread was from a Wimbledon bakery called Il Mulino, and the slices of bread on offer were decent enough, though the white bread needed more salt (12/20).

I began with a simple dish of grilled langoustines, served in their shells with just a garnish of lemon. The langoustines looked a little dried out but actually tasted fine, cooked for about the right length of time, though I have certainly eaten higher quality langoustines than this (12/20). Ravioli of pumpkin had pleasant texture, with rather more almond taste than I was expecting (13/20). A main course of wild sea bass had good quality fish flavoured with rosemary, properly timed, though with soggy Swiss chard (12/20, more for the fish). My risotto with pork sausage and red wine and a little radiccio was adequate, but the stock it was cooked with should have been more intense, the result being a slightly watery rice, though it at least tasted of the red wine that was advertised; the bitterness of the radiccio would have been a better idea if the stock had been richer (12/20).

Zabaglione was cold by the time it arrived, though an apple strudel was pleasant enough, while panna cotta tasted better than it looked, which was a good thing as it looked truly awful (12/20). Service seemed stressed and slightly bewildered throughout the evening. From my table I could clearly see one waitress sitting down just off the main dining room and casually chatting, while her lone colleague in the dining room struggled to keep up with the orders. Overall the cooking seemed reasonable, with decent quality ingredients and few technical problems. My concern was with the value for money; for these prices you could eat at serious restaurants in Belgravia. Still, Castelnau has always been an outpost of quiet opulence, so perhaps the pricing is exquisitely tuned to its local audience.


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