The South of France comes to Mayfair…By Helen Down.
Riviera is the latest opening from twin restauranteurs, Arian and Alberto Zandi. Having already conquered Kensington with Como Garden and Zuaya, their march across London now stretches to Mayfair. We were lucky enough to sample the new offering just as the UK’s summer slid into autumn and a hit of Côte d’Azur was sorely needed. As soon as we crossed the threshold, damp London was replaced by Saint-Tropez as a quaint escalator delivered us, Eurostar style, into a buzzing atmosphere of well-healed SW1 diners. Jeans will not cut the Dijon mustard here.
Greeted by a well-informed maitre d’ who’s perfected the skill of popping up just when you need him, we indulged in a couple of cocktails before perusing the menu. In the safe hands of Riviera’s mixologist, my Melon Rouge – spiced rum, elderflower syrup, melon juice and chilli – was as refreshing as a Cannes Croisette rosé.
From mustard-marinated veal chop to chateau briand, the menu is mightily meaty, as is befitting for a Gallic establishment. But pescatarians – especially lobster lovers – are also well served. After much deliberation, we settled on courgette flower stuffed with truffle and cheese (wow, just wow – paper thin tempura that bursts into an avalanche of molten goat’s cheese) and tuna tartar that was so fresh, it might’ve leapt straight from the Med onto my plate: a faultless melding of textures with its avocado puree base. To follow, picture-perfect octopus tentacles nuzzling a cauliflower purée base that somehow managed to taste charmingly flora, and butter soft seabass floating on a bed of oozing baby tomatoes, encased in a satisfyingly unique olive oil, soy and miso broth.
The pull of tart tartin proved irresistible: buttery pastry hosting generous fleshy orbs of apple, doused in just the right volume of caramelised syrup with a whisp of sugar tuille hovering above. Washed down with a vibrant glass of Picpoul de Pinet, we could’ve easily been watching the sun set from an Antibes veranda.
Open since April 2023, Riviera already seems to be making a mark with its high-end French cuisine. The themed monthly cabaret shows might not be to everyone’s taste, but the gastronomy most certainly will be.
Address: 23 St James’s Street, St James’s, London, SW1A 1HA
Price: approx £70/head + drinks and service