The Picturehouse, Greenwich High Road, SE10
Now here’s a place whose opening was almost as anticipated in this household as the Picturehouse itself. It was an empty space for so long after the cinema opened that we began to worry that it would stay empty forever. Even when we heard the opening date, when we walked past two days before the grand event, it was STILL empty.
They did manage to open on time (albeit the first night was a bit chaotic – but then what’s a first night without a spot of healthy chaos?) and I confess that this is one of my preferred restaurants in Greenwich.
It’s the South-Eastern sister of Mark Hix’s eaterie in – naturally – Rivington St, Shoreditch, and part of the swanky Caprice chain which most famously owns the Ivy. I slightly supsect that this is the poor relation of the chain – I can’t quite explain why – I just don’t get the feeling that it’s actually visited very often by the owners. I wonder if this is the beginning of a chain of “Rivingtons” rather than a quirky one-off (or, to be more precise, a two-off.)
That’s not to say it isn’t a really nice local restaurant. It’s bright and airy on a sunny Sunday morning, warm and cosy on a dark November’s night, with lots of glass doors and dark wood, plain walls and the odd antique (there’s a huge ex-railway-looking clock which sadly doesn’t work) which gives it a nicely timeless feel (literally, in the case of the clock.)
Downstairs at the bar there is a snack menu chalked up on a blackboard – modern twists on traditional British fare – in fact there is an extremely strong British slant on the whole menu and the list of suppliers is a who’s who of British Foodie Producers. The rest of the restaurant has an interesting menu which does feature the odd seasonal dish (a rhubarb creme brulee I once had was utterly divine and lingers in my memory as much as my waistline) but carries a basic repertoire which doesn’t seem to have changed since the place opened.
Not that I’m complaining. Dishes such as Eggs Benedict, Suckling Pig, Lyme Bay Scallops and my personal favourite, Smoked Haddock with Poached Egg and Colcannon are nicely presented and the wine list has some interesting bottles. One of these days I’m going to get a group together for one of their ‘banquets’ where a whole suckling pig or seasonal game birds are presented for the entire table.
The Rivington has two problems, in my humble opinion. The first can be easily solved, the second I’ll have to live with.
The first is its smoking policy. It doesn’t have one. Despite having two very distinct areas which could be separated for smokers and non-smokers, anyone can smoke anywhere. Now I’m not a rabid anti-smoker, but I do object to trying to eat my food whilst surrounded on three sides by entire tables of people puffing away. They might be in between courses, but I’m not and they are less than two feet away from me. It’s hardly a conducive way to enjoy Mark Hix’s carefully-chosen menu. This would be more of a problem if it wasn’t going to be solved in July, but this to me is an example of my feeling that this place plays second-fiddle to the Shoreditch branch – we’ve had TWO YEARS of this non-policy when it could so easily have been sorted out so that smokers and non-smokers could have both enjoyed a meal in harmony. Nobody’s actually bothered to consider it.
The second is the prices. The food is good – and the sourcing excellent, but I can’t quite feel that it warrants the money that you pay for it. It’s just a teeny bit pricey for what you get. It tends to be a meal that we eat as an occasion in itself rather than as an accompaniment to the cinema – when you’re paying prices like that you don’t want to be rushed – you want to enjoy the place as a destination.
All things said, though, this is definitely one of the better restaurants in town. And it will be even better in July…