It was perhaps not a great omen that I arrived at The Riverfront Bar and Kitchen with a giant grilled prawn perching perilously atop my head. Nor that I had previously eaten my weight in delicious grilled meats and fish balls at a Feng Sushi barbecue press event, but this – I am learning rapidly – is the permanently sated and stuffed-to-the-gills reality of life as a “food journalist””. So to The Riverfront of the BFI – a building I virtually co-inhabit as much as I co-inhabit Gordon’s Wine Bar (visiting on an almost weekly basis), for three courses, wine, the slightly insane company of Ben Norum – editor of Blue Tomato – and a guest prawn carcass.
Housed inside the British Film Theatre’s Southbank outpost, the restaurant taking up one side, with an open space pub-lounge bar on the other, the Riverfront benefits from large windows and an ideal people-watching location.
However, boy how service doth change when they know you’re coming to “review”! From the weekend previously, where I waited 40 sodding minutes for the failed D&G underwear model behind the bar to present me with cold chips, I suddenly experienced the joy of three waiters tripping over their Golas to pick up my dropped fork and giggling nervously as I eyed the breadcrusts with a furrowed brow. Never has my brow posessed such power.
The menu at Riverfront is standard nouveau British pub grub with a half-hearted whiff of “Gastro” about it, nothing spectacular although the burgers seem to be a big hit. Ben had whitebait which was crispy and perfectly salted although came with a tartare that tasted suspiciously of HP. I enjoyed a chunky farmhouse terrine which could have done with a bit more jelly and moistness and had an odd thick slab of very dry chicken breast running through the middle of it.
Mains-wise, Ben’s lamb burger looked more appetising than my rabbit with mash, and tastier too, ozzing as it was and slathered in minty mayo. That being said, the highlight of the meal was the Cuvée Alice 2008 – a decent plonk for £16 – that enabled my digestive juices to get going enough to handle two mouthfuls of my Maids of Honour pudding – light and fluffy and served warm with good quality cream.
The Riverfront lacks the cosy, slobby-chic charm of the Benugo Bar & Kitchen at the back of the BFI – although both are renowned for sloth-like slow service (both are owned by Benugo and its a recurring complain), I would always pick the latter over the former. The Riverfront, despite its name, actually misses the best of the views as it is under a bridge and is at its most attractive on a Sunday afternoon when the book market is in full swing and you can enjoy a beer on the outside deckchairs. Better off sourcing food at the Real Food Market behind the Royal Festival Hall…