05 June 2011

Riding High: Riding House Café Review

When I was looking at potential new flats two years ago, one of the nicest ones I viewed was on Riding House Street in Fitzrovia (or, Red Riding Street as I often erroneously call it). Unfortunately, the flat only had one bedroom and so we couldn't take it but the newly opened Riding House Café has given me a new reason to pass through the street. Fitzrovia is usually quiet at the weekends but when I tried to reserve a table at the RHC on Friday, the only available slots were 6.30 and 9.30, which bodes well for them.

The café takes its inspiration from the diners of Manhattan's Lower East Side and offers all-day dining, from breakfasts laden with juices and pancakes, through lunch and dinner, with small plates, puddings and cocktails to keep you going in between. The "restaurant" section is fairly small with a large handful of tables surrounded by smart red leather seats; the wooden walls are adorned with stuffed squirrels whose job is to hold up the lights. The other part of the café has a long bar with a series of turquoise chairs, a long canteen-style table (for those without reservations), and some comfy lounge seats, again decorated in a fetching shade of turquoise. We had a cocktail in the lounge area (my Ramos gin fizz was pretty tasty although a little too creamy for my taste; The Ex's raspberry and elderflower Collins was very good) before proceeding to our table in the main restaurant.

As part of my ongoing quest to find the world's best burger, I couldn't not order the cheeseburger, which came perfectly medium rare, with tasty cheddar and yummy chips. Fortunately, the RHC caters for boring people like me by allowing us to order our usual cheeseburger as a main course but also inviting us to order a selection of more interesting small plates to start (we tried the pork belly, veal and pork sausage and the prawns -- the prawns in particular were very good value). I didn't really have room for pudding but the chocolate and praline semifreddo was too tempting to miss and came with a tart, raspberry coulis, which contrasted perfectly. The food was great, the ambiance was also great and the service was also good, so I'll definitely be returning, even if I don't often spend much time in this part of Fitzrovia.

On the subject of newly discovered dining delights, we also visited St Ali, in Clerkenwell, for brunch yesterday. Their coffee, roasted in house, was very good and I ordered the vive le pain main course -- very eggy French toast with very good sweet-cure bacon, walnuts and syrup -- which was so big even I couldn't manage to finish it. This is another place to which I will definitely be returning in the near future.

Riding House Café. 43-51 Great Titchfield Street, London, W1W 7PQ (Tube: Oxford Circus). Website. Twitter.

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