Mention Hammersmith restaurants to anyone even vaguely in the know and they will invariably mention the iconic River Café, a truly deserving institution of that much over-used adjective. Beyond that however and the conversation will probably run awkwardly dry, until now with the recent opening of Sam’s Riverside, a refined and chic neighbourhood restaurant.
Situated in the landmark Riverside Studios, directly next to The Thames by Hammersmith Bridge, Sam’s Riverside has been opened by the eponymous Sam Harrison – something of a stalwart on the London culinary landscape and much-loved for his previous ventures, particularly Sam’s Brasserie in Chiswick. Sam’s propensity to name his restaurants after himself can be easily forgiven when seeing the passion and care he has put into this latest venture. On the cold and rainy night that we visited, his cheering and gracious personal welcome was much appreciated.
Steered by Sam to the beautiful large horseshoe bar in the centre of the room, we began our evening with smoked almonds, olives and an aperitif of a perfectly made Negroni. We also tried a crisp, dry Amontillado sherry, one of three sherries on the menu (always a good sign). The charming bartender had a generous hand with the sherry pour and set us up for a dinner notable for its generosity and simple, well-executed cooking.
The menu at Sam’s Riverside is pleasingly classic in style with sections for oysters and seafood, grilled items and a well-priced set menu at only £17.50 for two courses. Despite this classicism there are plenty of options for vegetarians and a couple of nods to current trends like kombucha or green juice.
I can rarely resist a dressed crab starter and I was well rewarded for my choice, with plentiful meat both white and dark and a thick mayonnaise binding it all together which paired well with the house sourdough. My guest was a little more adventurous, opting for grilled octopus which was accompanied by Pimenton potatoes as well as a saffron aioli that was so good I requested more which I happily dipped my sourdough into for the rest of the meal, resisting all attempts by valiant staff trying to clear the table!
Our main courses were as well-crafted as the first, it is clear that head chef Harvey Trollope learnt a great deal from his time at the Ritz under John Williams and Marco Pierre White, masters of training, rigour and perfection. A bone-in sirloin was a lesson in the art of grilling excellent meat, a great slab rich with seared fat as well as exemplary chips and textbook béarnaise.
Rather more delicate and refined, but no less delicious was the tronçon of brill and chanterelles with Meuniere butter and with a great depth of flavour afforded by a chicken jus.
With a few sips of our delicious Caves de Pic Syrah left and still dipping anything/everything into that amazing saffron aioli, we opted to forgo desserts and finished instead with a plate of perfectly kept English cheddar.
As with the cooking, service at Sam’s was precise and professional throughout, but also warm and friendly, so very important in a restaurant that is sure to have made a loyal following of locals soon after opening.
Fully satisfied, we left the now packed dining room with a determination to return before too long, and certainly when the weather would allow use of the gorgeous alfresco dining area next to the river. Sam’s illustrious neighbour is now by no means the only spot that comes to mind in Hammersmith and the area is all the better for it.
To book and discover more, visit: samsriverside.co.uk
By Paul Ford
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