THE BLOG

Behind The Doors Of The River Cafe

02/10/2017 00:34

There aren't many people my age who are lucky enough to be celebrating a 30th birthday.

Yes, the River Café is 30 years old. And I started thinking, what does it mean, to turn 30?

30 is a fantastic time. It is when you are in the prime of your looks, you are less vulnerable to peer pressure. People take you more seriously and you are finally confident in yourself. Basically you know your way around the menu. But at 30, most importantly, you know who your true friends are.

The River Cafe has always been a family affair since my husband Richard Rogers, business partner Rose Gray and I opened the doors in 1987. Over the past 30 years, those first chefs and customers and waiters have had babies, and now those babies have had babies. We are on to the second, even the third River Café generations of children. And I like to think we send these River Café children out there into the world with not just a deep understanding of first pressed olive oil, how to cut a piece of parmesan, or clean an anchovy, but with our values.

And like good cooking, those values aren't complicated. They are to be patient, to be kind, to be fair, to be compassionate and tolerant.

We broke the rules and gave chefs more days off, took our team on trips to Italy, things that felt eccentric at the time - but for us were core values: staying simple - coming full circle back to that simplicity with a deeper understanding of what we do best. But the really amazing thing is that all these hours of experience have taken place on the same spot.

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There is so much history in the fabric of our building besides the Thames; people talk about the buzz of the restaurant when it is full but I like the early mornings when it is empty and silent, and you can feel all the dramas, the deals, the tantrums and the marriage proposals that have taken place here.

The waiter who told a customer she looked just like Linda Evangelista, to be told 'I am Linda Evangelista'; The customer who asked a waiter where the ladies were, to be told they were in Italy, he only realised later she meant the bathrooms. The time the staff got excited that Jim Carrey was coming in, only to be disappointed it was actually secretary of state, John Kerry. The night the canary flew into the restaurant and silenced everyone with its song.

It is incredible to think that whole life of the River Café has been lived out in the same building it started out in. Because by the time you turn 30, you have usually left home.

There was a time two years ago when it looked like we might have to leave home. But we didn't want to leave, our customers didn't want us to leave, and so we stayed. I think the River Cafe is many things. You might come here after a triumph, or to console yourself or to celebrate. But most of all I hope that the River Café is like coming home.

Once you walk through the door, you are ours. We look after you. You are surrounded by friends. You feel welcome, you feel safe. And now we've reached this landmark, 30 years.

At 30 you look back, assess what you've done, you ask yourself if you've achieved what you wanted to achieve: and when you can say yes, or almost yes, you look forward, to the future, to what you're going to do next.

We will look at our new cook book, RIVER CAFÉ 30. We will sing, we will dance. We will toast our fabulous Rose. But most importantly, we will all continue to work.

We will switch on the coffee machine, check the bookings, make the caramel ice cream, light the fire in our wood oven.

Ready to welcome the first of you to come through our door.

Ready to welcome you to the River Café.

Ready to welcome you... home.

River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Rose Gray, Joseph Trivelli and Sian Wynn Owen (Ebury Press, £28) Available from 5th October

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