Saturday, August 29, 2009

A dark night at the Riverview Hotel restaurant

The restaurant at Balmain’s Riverview Hotel has become the latest dining destination in the inner west. This has been partly due to Simon Thomsen’s good review in the Sydney Morning Herald, and, I think, to the couple of weeks the restaurant has been advertised on the billboard on the corner of Victoria Road, Rozelle, just before the turnoff to the Anzac Bridge.

This has resulted in the Riverview’s restaurant being booked out on Saturday nights. We were lucky enough to nab a table tonight, so for once I’m riding on the wave of a restaurant’s success instead of visiting when it’s on the wane.

And because it was Saturday night, the Riverview Hotel was pumping. It’s located in a residential street, so the drinking and noise is pretty much confined to the inside of the pub, and gosh, it’s so loud! Fortunately, the restaurant is upstairs and is pretty much insulated from the noise. Lushly carpeted and with gold wallpaper, it’s got an old terrace house feel to it although the food and service are contemporary and polished.

However, it’s very dimly lit, and it’s one of my gripes with restaurants – you can’t see the food that the chef has obviously prepared with care, and any photos you take turn out grainy and poor. That’s why I don’t have any decent photos of our entrées ($17 each). And very good they were, too – barbequed quail (succulent and moist, served with an amazing witlof and walnut salad) and a tuna tartare (very spicy with Tabasco).

I managed to get my camera adjusted by the time the mains ($28 each) arrived, but it was still very dark. It wasn’t till I got home and lightened the photos that I could really see what we had eaten.

The Rabbit Sheppard’s [sic] Pie was filled with tender pieces of rabbit, parsnip, kale and beans, and topped with pecorino and pancetta. I was expecting my organic Berkshire pork to be one of those little cubes, but it was a large chop, on the bone. It was served with pumpkin, some delicious carrots with cumin, and pears with basil sauce. We also ordered a side of hand-cut chips with aioli – delicious, but we couldn’t finish them.

Rabbit pie

Organic Berkshire Pork

Both mains together - rather pleased with this photo, as it's not too dim and dark

The servings are large (hence the lack of interest in the chips), but I have a different stomach when it comes to dessert ($13 each). So we had a fantastic yoghurt panna cotta, and a chocolate pavlova. I think the pavlova would have been better as a ‘normal’ pav rather than chocolate, but it was pretty good regardless (especially the marinated strawberries).
Top: Meredith yoghurt, honey and rosemary panna cotta with mango, pineapple jelly and quince
Bottom: Chocolate pavlova with mascarpone cream and balsamic strawberries

The service here is spot on – it may have something to do with our early dining time (6.30pm), but when we left 1 ½ hours later, the place was full and the efficient waitstaff and kitchen seemed to be managing well. So all up, I think it deserves its hype. I’d like to go back when it’s lighter and brighter outside, though, maybe for Sunday lunch, where I heard the roasts are worth going for. Bet my photographs will be better then, too.
The Riverview Hotel is at 29 Birchgrove Rd, Balmain. Ph: 02 9810 1151
Riverview Hotel on Urbanspoon


  1. I just can't think about parsnip right now without thinking of Don Burke..

    I was also going to say that after lightening the photo of the delicious sounding pie, the pie base looks like a ceramic dish... but then I realised it actually is a dish (right?). God, I think I should go to bed, I've been staring at my computer screen too long!

  2. Wow it looks soo good considering the price. What a bargain. The portions looked big as well. It seems like they did not choose just either quality or quantity, but both, it's not often that you can get large portions of great produce in a meal. Great review

  3. ha, i love the thought of you heading home and looking at your lightened photos to finally see what your meal looked like! food looks great, and i'm sure that pancetta is winking at me!

  4. Rabbit pie! Man that looks good. I wanna take a bite of it straight from my computer screen. For somewhere that was poorly lighted, you sure did take some good photos.

  5. It's great when something lives up to its name, and it can't be easy for them if it's become so crowded. The pie looks amazingly decorated.

  6. oh man, that rabbit pie looks so beautiful, all the pics have that goldeny late autumn look, very appetising!

  7. hi Conor - that is too funny! I'd say Don Burke is a turnip for dissing the brilliant parsnip! Hope you got a good night's rest anyway.

    hi Linda - it was definitely good value. I was also really impressed at the speed with which the dishes turned up.

    hi Helen - that's exactly what happened - that the plates appeared yellow at the restaurant gives some idea of how dark it was!

    hi Maria - I must give credit to the good ol' photo enhancing software. Thanks anyway!

    hi Arwen - they were really friendly yet professional. The ideal combination.

    hi YaYa - autumn-tinged: I like that description! It certainly goes with the rabbit dish, doesn't it?

  8. I haven't eaten there, only ever popped in for a drink and maybe a bar snack - but the last time I was there I noticed that it has been established since the late 1800's. Fascinating! Bet they actually had a river view back then before all the expensive real estate populated the areas around it!

  9. hi Forager - yes, a lot of places around Balmain are really old (my house was built in 1890!). Thankfully, they've usually replaced the plumbing since then!