They say that nothing in life is guaranteed but death and taxes; as a Mum I disagree as you can add cooking (or feeding) and washing to that list. As a consequence it is a phenomenal treat to be taken out for Sunday lunch.
The River Cottage cafe seemed to tick all the boxes to qualify as a trendy bristro: local ethical produce - tick, loads of micro salad leaves - tick, a short daily changing menu - tick, a good balance of choices if meat, fish and vegetarian dishes - tick, celebrity chief - tick, artfully distressed decor in a newly decorated venue - tick, faux industrial detail - tick. Well, the first three tick my boxes too, provided the chiefs can deliver the goods and I can cope with the mildly pretentious interiors besides it was set in a glorious building in a historic dock yard.
I must add the additional proviso that a lunchtime restaurant must be child friendly, and in this it excelled. There is great menu for little people, a decent changing unit, colouring in sheets and crayons, totally charming staff and enough space so that we can work the room (you know, the endless wondering in circles essential to young toddlers).
I love mixed platters so we opted for the fish and the meat ones to share. There were notable highlights, the soused herring and cured mutton were great. At £12.50 they really needed to be - but they did not really live up to their pricing ambition. The ham croquettas were sloppy, the smoked mackerel pate wad merely so-so (mine matches up to or surpasses it) and the portions, for the price, were far from generous.
For mains my fish was so fresh it's Mum had not even had a chance to missed him and was served on a bed of impeccably spiced lentils. The butternut squash and chickpeas and memorable and the pork had that old fashioned taste of authenticity. The children faired a little less well, the home made hummus came with fairly second rate pitta rather than the advertised vegetable sticks but the pasta was very passable.
Fortunately the pudding was back up to scratch again, the worst problem was choosing so we ordered one of each. They were unctuous, calorific and with well balanced flavours. The fresh raspberries stopped the chocolate terrine from being cloying with the creme fraiche just married the two, and the rhubarb lifted panna cotta and the biscotti gave it the perfect bite.
It was the perfect Sunday lunch, but the perfect lunch is more than just food, it is company and ambiance too. If the day was judged purely on the food I would say that it was good, not excellent, and at £140 for four adults and two children it really did need to be at least that good.
This was in no way sponsored, paid for or subject to any commercial pressures. It was chosen by my step daughter - and I think she did a great job doing so.