Head Here If… You’re slap, bang in the middle of Oxford Street and fancy a nice diversion away from the crowds
Oxford Street is a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it. Mind you, as Londoners, there’s no escaping from the place. So if you’re in town and looking for somewhere devoid of the manic crowds on the south side of W1 central, make a note of this recent addition to the scene…
First Things First
Although Riding Street Cafe is predominately a restaurant, there’s no hiding from the whopping big central bar. It’s certainly impressive and more to the point, very inviting; listen very carefully and you can almost hear it whispering ‘sit down, take the weight off – you look like you deserve a drink.’ At least that’s what we thought we heard so obviously, we oblige… Quite happily we might add. There’s space for a healthy number of punters to take a ringside pew and most of them fall into the beautiful peeps category. But don’t let that put you off, there’s nothing at all show-offy or cliquey about this place. Au contraire, there’s a real good-times atmosphere pervading the room. Not that we’re at all surprised; these guys know their stuff. With two award-winning eating/drinking venues in Bermondsey (The Garrison and Village East), they know a thing or two about what makes Londoners tick. The cocktail menu is short and to the point: four martinis, three champagne cocktails, two to share and 11 long and short drinks, in other words, pretty much perfect.
Unsurprisingly, given the location (Fitzrovia), The Fitzroy (Wyborowa vodka, elderflower cordial and Devaux Grand Reserve NV) is the signature drink. It’s a wonderful choice and one that Ms S is glad to have brought to her attention. Served in a champagne flute with a simple lemon twist adding a celebratory flourish it’s a giggly girly elegant drink which is bursting with summery goodness.
The eloquence of the person mixing the cocktail isn’t everything when discussing a drink. Far from it. So when our barman suggests a particular gin to Mr G because he “likes the finish – all the botanicals staying around to the end” that sounds fair enough. When he then warms to his theme describing said botanicals as “shapes going over a hill” it sounds, well, kind of interesting. And when he adds “it’s a happiness gin” it’s, alright, I get it, you like this gin. But when the gin in question is the excellent No 3 Mr G is willing to forgive the descriptive overload. Verbals aside the drink does actually speak for itself. The glass has a charming, slightly old-fashioned Victorianesque look about it. There’s a good old chunk of lemon peel letting loose its aroma. It’s nicely mixed too, allowing the gin to sit comfortably up front. Just cold enough, it has a big flavour and there’s a nice bit of sweetness in the finish. Best of all you really feel like you’ve drunk a dry martini alright. And, yes, for Mr G it ends up being a happiness cocktail.
We had to try the Vicar’s Tea Party (Millers gin, framboise liqueur, Earl Grey syrup, orange bitters and lemon) as it’s one of the drinks the Riding House crew seem particularly proud of. And we can see why. It’s served cold and comes in a teapot with dry ice replicating the appearance of steam. It’s slightly sweet, it’s a whole lotta moreish and it slips down a little too easily for our liking. We can see this being a huge hit, particularly with groups of girls or anyone who fancies the glamour of cocktails without going down the Martini-style route.
And To Eat?
How hungry are you? Choose between small plates consisting of beetroot carpaccio, sheep’s ricotta, Merlot vinaigrette or goat’s curd, figs and honey at £3 each; veal and pork sausages, lentils, mustard and sage or slow-roasted pork belly and cumin salt at £4 each and Atlantic prawns, lemon and mayo or steak tartare and toast at £5 a dish. Mains take in all kinds of homely but well-cooked treats including chorizo hash browns (£10.50), rack of pork, lentils, smoked sausage and horseradish (£14.20), fish and chips (£13.90), steaks ranging from £18.60-£25 and burgers (£9.60-£13.90). Pudding fans will love spiced gingerbread, grilled figs and caramel ice cream (£5.50), or red plum and pear crumble with custard for two (£10.50). Put it this way, you certainly won’t starve…
What’s The Damage?
Around the £8-£9 mark, with drinks for two setting you back £14.50-£15.50.
Look Out For
The loud, bustling central bar, not that you can miss it. We also like the great vibe coming from the long communal table in the centre of the room.
Ms S says
Talk about friendly, this place is so welcoming it’s like you get a whopping big hug the minute you walk through the door. The clientele veers towards the young, lithe and gorgeous end of the spectrum, but everybody fits in (yes, even us…) and it’s easy to spend a good few hours here, either at the bar or at one of the tables.
Mr G says
We like a big old bar where we can pull up our stools and settle down. Not only does this place have the big bar but it also has fantastically lush and comfy stools to go with. The layout means you get the atmosphere of an agreeably loud bar too, when that’s what your mood is calling for. And when you throw in some nicely put together cocktails it’s clear that they really care about getting the whole package right – environment, food and drinks.
43-51 Gt. Titchfield Street, W1W 7PQ. T: 020 7927 0840 ridinghousecafe.co.uk
Open Mon-Fri 8am-11pm; Sat & Sun 9am-11pm.