‘It’s all in the name’ is not a term to go by when weighing your expectations of the Riding House Café. It is definitely not the kind of café we know of, where builders pop in for a cuppa, or even the chic French kind in which cappuccinos and croissants are passed through clouds of cigarette smoke. Riding House? There aren’t any horses trotting around or, despite the latest eco-trend, rows of bicycle racks lining the pavement outside.
The name could have something to do with the décor. With stuffed-squirrel light fixtures on lacquered wood walls and a stretched-out cocktail bar, the designers of Riding House clearly spent a few nights in Soho House picking up tips on what the media types like. But something about the inspired style works. The large-scale, open-plan layout and oversized windows add add an element of casual coool so cosy-kitsch doesn’t turn into taxidermy freak den.
The menu, too, is far from anything you normally find in a café, but bang on the anti-fine dining trend, offering casual eating options for all tastes. A number of ‘small plates’ are recommended to share as starters, and also available for waif-like models or fussy dates. These aren’t just for svelt waistlines, though. The beetroot carpaccio with air-light fluffed ricotta will melt in your mouth, while a small steak tartare is dressed to perfection and served with crispy, thin crostinis. Other favourite smalls are the baked artichoke dip and spiced poussin.
For the those who don’t like sharing (you know who you are) a number of perfectly stodgy mains are available for your fork only. Since (let’s face it) most anti-sharers are men, the mains incorporate a few macho steaks and the famous house burger. The cholesterol-inducing favourite is the chorizo hash browns, finished off with an oozing poached egg on top. More heart-friendly, the moist baked sea bass is topped with a rich octopus nero sauce. Sides are also encouraged.
Judging by the menu and non-offensive décor, the Riding House Café clearly knows who it wants through the doors and how to draw them in according to their individual tastes. From unimpressed socialites and all-or-nothing bankers to calorie-conscious boy-toys and cool twenty-somethings, Riding House aims to satisfy their appetites breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And judging by the calculated coolness here, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Riding House Café did a ‘Soho House’ and started a world takeover by slowly opening up in hip areas around the world. Watch this space.
Buy Hg2 London here