The River Café
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, W6 9HA
WLC Rank : 47
Glass from : £ 7.00 (175 ml)
Head sommelier, Christophe Decoux originally co-piloted The River Café’s august wine list with the much-respected Emily O’Hare, who now lives in Siena running what she terms, “WSET wine retreats”. That relationship was fruitful, recalls Decoux. “We really expanded the list. But now I am flying solo!”
Despite it being a mature rendition of Cahors which first got Decoux interested in wine, “a long, long time ago,” the wine list here at Thames Wharf “will always be Italian” excepting Champagnes including the much sought-after Salon Le Mesnil alongside Franciacorta, and stickies such as Niepoort Colheita beside Rocca di Montegrossi Vin Santo. He adds: “Ruthie and Rose established strong relationships with Italian producers for food, olive oil and the wine which have only strengthened over the years.”
Decoux believes the waterside setting of the restaurant, which was re-designed by Richard Rogers, husband of Ruth Rodgers, accentuates the enjoyment of wine. “We are so lucky to be situated by the river with our own garden. There is no doubt this setting adds to The River Café experience.” Only the relatively short evening operating houses hinder the experience, which is something Decoux promises, “we’re working on.”
Sunday is a particularly pleasant time to visit, says Decoux. “Many of our regular customers come for lunch and it can be challenging to change their habits. However, the diversity of our wines and evolving by the glass creates interest.” These may include an Etna Rosso (Ciauria, Pietro Caciorgna) and Ben Rye Passito di Pantelleria (Donnafugata).
Decoux mentions a satisfying wine and food match, celebrating the arrival of peas and broad beans with Valpolicella Ca’Fui from Corte Sant’ Alda. And, come Autumn, he recommends “porcini and Nebbiolo -a classic match.”
Despite The River Café being as subscribed as ever by its often starry clientele, prices on the wine list remain pretty decent, something which Decoux says is possible, because “I harass my suppliers (just kidding)!” In actuality, Decoux strives to find balance between the quality of the wine and price point. “It’s not always easy, but we have good relationships with all of our suppliers, some of whom we’ve worked with for over 20 years.”
The team increasingly cherishes sustainability, “and respect for the soil, which is key for the evolution of wine, reflected in The River Café’s list.”
When not at The River Café, Decoux will be taking good care of his two sons. “Family is my second passion!”
By Douglas Blyde.