If Michelin stars are the Oscars of the food world, Ducasse has directed Ben Hur and the Titanic combined
How often do you go to Michelin star restaurants? I go very rarely, which given this job, is something that surprises people, particularly the food bloggers – the health and safety reps of the restaurant world. Disbelief is quickly followed by pity, then often anger. ‘What sort of ‘restaurant writer ‘doesn’t go to Michelin star restaurants?’ This question, dripping in sarcasm, is normally followed by a dismissive toss of the head, so they can continue comparing dinner photos on their phones.
Touché. Despite numerous articles to the contrary, a Michelin star is a byword for restaurant excellence. With London being the dining capital of Europe, it stands to reason that if you dine out in London as often as I do, you must land on a Michelin star restaurant or chef every other week. Except the thing about Michelin star restaurants and chefs is first they don’t need to entertain ‘Z list’ writers such as me. Second they are typically expensive - very expensive. Third, they’re not normally the sort of place I would choose to dine. Too serious, too pretentious or both.
However some chefs and restaurants are different. You don’t get much more Michelin than Alain Ducasse. The only chef to have three stars Michelin restaurants in three cities simultaneously; and one of only two chefs to achieve 21 Michelin stars in his career. If Michelin stars are the Oscars of the food world, Ducasse has directed Ben Hur and the Titanic combined with a smattering of Lord of the Rings thrown in for good measure.
Rivea, his latest offering in Knightsbridge (where else) clearly has its sights on improving that award tally. Located in the basement of the Bulgari Hotel, Rivea has a fifties Italian Riviera glamour, from its sweeping staircase descent, through to its ballroom-cum-cabaret style layout. Frank Sinatra wouldn’t have looked out of place in this joint. The other diners were mostly male, and seemed more like wealthy Europeans, or wealthy colleagues on a night out. The waiters were mostly European and mostly very attractive. Although, as my friend quipped, why the men were dressed as members of the new wave band Cheap Trick is anyone’s guess.
The food is neither cheap nor tricks but it is in small plates (aren’t they all nowadays?) The green asparagus and ricotta ravioli was flavoursome and very well balanced. The parmesan gnocchi made my friend and I reconsider our previous dislike of this type of pasta. It was superb. The confit veal shank with Swiss chard and carrot was milky rich and melt-in-your-mouth tasty. The sea bass with lemon and fennel was better. I ‘m not normally a fan of fennel as I think it often overpowers the fish, but not this time. The drinks list was both wide and deep catering to all tastes albeit those with larger wallets. And speaking of the latter, the prices while certainly not cheap were not in the wallet busting category.
Rivea is all about glamour – from the locale and the service, through to the waiting staff, decor and the ambiance - it positively oozes the stuff. Rivea is also a place for the food geeks to instagram their dinners and hashtag Ducasse. And despite my lack of Michelin experience, I’m willing to make a punt that Rivea migh just add to Mr Ducasses’s impressive star resume. And I might be able to get the bloggers off my back.
From * to *****
Wining and Dining ****
Serving and Pouring *****
Seeing and being seen ***
Bulgari Hotel, Bulgari Hotel & Residences, London, 171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW