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Rivington Grill Review

Katy Harrington revels in the joy of fine wine, the congeniality of Danes and discovers 'The Best of British' doesn't actually live in Shoreditch

Written by . Published on November 1st 2011.

Rivington Grill Review

RIGHT in the heart of London’s coolest, hipster, ironic specs and jumper wearing district is The Rivington Grill, literally a stone’s throw from Great Eastern Street. On a Friday night, Shoreditch is buzzing with skinny men and women who all look – and dress – like the people in The Kooples ads. Inside the dining room (minimal but smart, with a great bar for slinging a pre-dinner drink) is already full, but we are not. We’ve come to see what the best of British cooking tastes like in east London.

A small loaf of freshly baked knotted bread arrives, and shortly afterwards so does our waiter, a taciturn Dane. I know this because in an effort to establish some rapport I asked, “So where are you from?” and he said, “Denmark,” but what he meant was, “Shut your pie hole and let me take your order.”

‘Best of British’ is the Rivington manifesto. They say: “The broad, seasonal menu offers dishes that reflect the diverse culinary heritage of the British Isles with ingredients sourced, as much as possible, from small, independent suppliers.” Mmm… small independent suppliers sound delicious.

First signs are positive. A small loaf of freshly baked knotted bread arrives, and shortly afterwards so does our waiter, a taciturn Dane. I know this because in an effort to establish some rapport I asked, “So where are you from?” and he said, “Denmark,” but what he meant was, “Shut your pie hole and let me take your order.”

Dorset Crab 1Dorset crab with mayonnaise

To start we chose Cornish crab on toast with mayonnaise (£14.75) and a salad of mixed beets, fried goat’s curd, hazelnuts with elderberry dressing (£7.25/£10.75). Good news first – the mixed beets salad was beautifully balanced, crunchy and soft, salty and sweet. We should have ordered the larger portion, but the crab turned out to be more mixed than the mixed beets. 

Served in the carapace, the white meat was delicious, fresh, mild and meaty and the homemade mayo superb, but the large blobs of soft brown meat on both sides tasted less like crab meat and more like crab poop. Now I’m all for not wasting any part of a shellfish that died for my enjoyment, but seriously, this tasted unholy. Some of the accoutrements were equally unappealing. On the side there were two ramekins with desiccated egg yolk (tasteless) and desiccated egg white (pointless). When I asked our waiter what the contents of these ramekins were (neither tasted of anything) he gave me a ‘don’t you always eat crab with a separated, desiccated egg?’ look.

Copy Of Rivington_Beetroot And Goat's Cheese Salad - Close Up 2Beetroot and goat's cheese salad

When faced with some disappointing food, I find the best course of action is to drink. So to complement the crab poop we ordered Macon Villages Les Rosiers 2008, which was actually a 2010… as spotted by my eagle-eyed companion (£28). This went down so nicely it would have made eating real poop bearable.

For mains, curry and fish and chips… what could be more British? The vegetable masala with rice (£11.50), was well presented, very lightly spiced and a little bland. The portion of fish and chips with mushy peas (£15.75) was enormous. The fish itself was a lovely, flaky piece of cod but the batter was thick, stodgy and unpleasant. It came aloft a large pile of proper chipper-style chips and passable mushy peas, but all in all it just came up to the standard of a really good take-away. If these dishes represent the best of British cooking, then I’m a Pot Noodle.

(NB: Vegetarians should by rule of thumb avoid any restaurant with ‘grill’ in the name but still, the Rivington Grill’s s meat-free offering is meager. I guess vegetarian fare doesn’t figure in the ‘Best of British’. Maybe they should all sod off somewhere else?)

Fish N ChipsFish and chips

Sticking with our drinking strategy, we ordered a bottle of Rully Premier Cru Jager-Defaix 2007 (£49) and frankly after that, we were having such a good time, the food became kind of irrelevant…

Tra la la la…oh hello…you are you still there? I hoped you might have gone off to do something important, like watching Kim’s Kardashian’s Wedding Special on E! Oh, you want me not to describe the dessert do you? Really? Are you sure you wouldn’t just like me to just hum you the tune from Knight Rider instead? Ok, there’s no point trying to hide it. I can’t tell you much about dessert because but by the time it arrived we were QUITE drunk. Oh who am I kidding…VERY drunk. No truly, we were WASTED.

Now that that’s all out in the open…I do vaguely recall the blackberry buttermilk pudding (£4.75), which was in fact panna cotta with berry coulis, and was the texture of a breast implant. I think we also had the Kentish plum pie with custard (£5.75), which since my memory is as hazy as Bill Clinton’s, I shall give the benefit of the doubt and say it was glorious, a dessert fit for a king, it should be on a stamp, have its own museum etc, etc.

However, my sober reflection is that with its prime location, excellent dining room packed full of cool kids and promising menu it seems like the Rivington Grill should have it all. But while some of the dishes are stand out, some just good in parts, others are really just ok. No complaints about the wine though.

Rivington Grill
28-30 Rivington Street
London, EC2A 3DC

Rating:          13/20

6/10 food
                      3/5 service
                      4/5 ambience


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Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1 – 5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6 – 9 get a DVD, 10 – 11 if you must, 12 – 13 if you’re passing, 14 – 15 worth a trip, 16 –17 very good, 17 – 18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: We get carried away.


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