Sam Harrison ran a successful brasserie in Chiswick for several years before selling it to the now defunct Foxlow. In November 2019 he returned to the dining scene with Sam’s Riverside in Hammersmith. In charge of the kitchen is Harvey Trollope, who worked for almost three years at The Ritz as premier sous chef, before spending several years in private dining service prior to coming here.
The wine list had 93 labels and ranged in price from £24 at £325, with a median price of £49 and an average markup to retail price of 3.1 times, which is hardly cheap but is unexceptional in London these days. Sample references were Dominio de Punctum 2018 at £28 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £7, Bodegas Taron Rioja Reserva 2008 at £42 compared to its retail price of £14, and Mount Difficulty Bannockburn Pinot Noir 2016 at £60 for a wine that will set you back £30 in the high street. For those with the means there was the lovely Antinori Tignanello 2012 at £180 compared to its retail price of £103, and Chateau Lynch Bages 2005 at £325 for a wine whose current market value is £221. As an alternative, corkage was a modest £20 a bottle (double that for champagne).
Sourdough bread was from Hedone Bakery, an astute choice. Beef tartare was very good, the fillet (supplied by H.G. Walter in Hammersmith) having plenty of flavour and not being chopped too finely. It was also well seasoned and topped with a quail egg yolk, and the overall effect was comforting and enjoyable. On the side was melba toast with a little beef dripping (14/20). Butternut squash was roasted and served with goat curd, pumpkin seeds and a few spinach leaves. The squash itself was carefully cooked but this is a very simple dish, and so hard to get really excited about unless there is a truly exceptional core ingredient (12/20).
“Brick chicken” is a dish based on an idea developed in Tuscany and possibly dates back to Roman times. The chicken is compressed while cooking with the use of a brick, the idea being to get the chicken crisp while retaining moisture in the bird. No actual bricks are used here, but the final effect was good, the meat (from a supplier in Leicestershire) having quite good flavour, and the skin indeed being crisp, served on a bed of black cabbage. The earthiness of the cabbage was a good foil for the richness of the cooking juices. There was also “poor man’s Parmesan”, just a friend crust of parsley and lemon zest, which was pleasant if perhaps superfluous (14/20). Butterflied sardines were grilled with lemon, marjoram and chilli, which went nicely with the natural oiliness of the fish. They didn’t compare with some gorgeous and ultra-fresh grilled sardines I recall eating in a taverna called To Passaraki in Santorini, but that is hardly a fair comparison (13/20). On the side, chips were crisp and Brussels sprouts cooked with brown butter and a little nutmeg were a tad undercooked but nonetheless enjoyable.
For dessert, rum baba with pineapple and verbena had baba that avoided drying out, while the acidity of the pineapple was a good pairing for the syrup applied to the bread base of the baba. For me the verbena, a strong flavour at the best of times, was a touch too dominant (14/20). Mango slices with lime and coconut sorbet was refreshing, though involved limited intervention from the kitchen (12/20). Coffee was from a somewhat obscure London roaster and was pleasant enough, though these days there are plenty of excellent suppliers in the capital, many better than this.
Service was excellent, our main waitress being a very switched-on lady called Holly, who last served me back in the days of the excellent Ambassade de l’Ile before moving to Seven Park Place. They are fortunate to be able to attract staff of this calibre to this more casual environment. The bill came to £58 per person. If you shared a modestly priced wine from the list then a typical cost per person might come to £65. Overall, we had a very enjoyable evening, the cooking being of a higher level than it ever was at Sam’s Brasserie. The menu is appealing, the room attractive and the service good. It was already pretty much full on a cold Tuesday night just days after opening, so I imagine that it will prosper over time given the riverside location. I’d be happy to come back.