The new Riv on the block – how does it fare and compare?

Rivington Bar & Grill Madinat

Rivington Bar & Grill – Madinat Jumeirah Souk

Dubai; When Rivington Grill first opened at Souk Al Bahar three and a half years ago, hardly anyone had heard of the Caprice restaurant brand, Brits included, despite its original Shoreditch location. It has since taken Dubai by storm with its electric atmosphere and in FooDiva’s humble opinion, for truly mastering the art of consistently excellent service, without an ounce of upselling so prevalent across this city. I am not at all surprised to see a second location open in New Dubai at Madinat Jumeirah’s souk replacing Moroccan eatery Shoo Fee Ma Fee.

With much larger premises right next to The Agency and main dining room aside, the new concept also houses a dedicated bar and lounge on the first floor, as well as a large private function space on the rooftop for the cooler months. The interior echoes a similar simple and minimal brasserie feel as its elder sister – well that’s what happens when you use the same designer, Martin Brudnizki also responsible for another Caprice brand, The Ivy Dubai. Bright cobalt blue soft furnishings and wooden panelling set against white-washed walls and funky neon artwork create a convivial and relaxed ambience. Terraced tables overlook Madinat’s waterway – it may not have views of the magical fountains, but we snatched a peek across to the iconic Burj Al Arab.

The back-to-basics British menu (pretty much identical to Souk Al Bahar) prides itself on simple dishes using high quality seasonal ingredients at reasonable prices – with some of the starters and salads served as mains if you fancy a larger portion.

Dressed Devonshire crabSeared scallops with samphire and mint pea pureeRoast loin of lamb

From left to right: Devonshire dressed crab, seared scallops, roast lamb loin.

FooDiva’s starter of Devonshire dressed crab was exceedingly good – ever so thin shreds of white crab meat set atop an egg, chive and watercress mayo mix – served with lightly toasted wholemeal slices. The crab meat was so fresh and sweet it could have been locally caught that day. A more-ishly comforting British dish. My friend’s plump and silky seared scallops, a signature Riv dish and best-seller, is now served with seasonal samphire and a mint pea vinaigrette, replacing the original cauliflower and sauce Jacqueline accompaniment – melt-in-your-mouth perfection.

Grilled spatchcock chicken with garlic and thymePassion fruit Eton MessBritish cheese platter

Grilled spatchcock chicken, passion fruit Eton Mess, British cheese platter.

My chicken main was prepped a la spatchcock, basically butterflied by removing the backbone and sternum and flattening it out before grilling – soft and succulent – with a wonderfully flavoursome thyme and garlic dip on the side. I much prefer sauces served separately, so you can add or dunk in as much as you like. That’s exactly what my crisp and addictive pommes frites alumettes did. Al dente green beans with a sweet shallot confit rounded up FooDiva’s main. Friend opted for a roast lamb loin dish of the day, served perfectly pink with a side of mashed potato – both polished off with a smile.

Rivington take-away bagRiv or Rivi, as it’s affectionately known is quite famous for its desserts if you like traditional English. I’ve been known to pop into Souk Al Bahar just for tea and cake, and believe me it’s worth it. The Eton Mess called out to me, but our rather shy waiter didn’t appear to know whether it was served with strawberries, any other berry or fruit ingredient – after much toing and froing – a passion fruit concoction arrived. Slithers, seeds included of this zesty, sweet yet acidic tropical fruit (imagine all-in-one lemon, guava and pineapple) jumbled with chunks of meringue and lashings of cream – thank goodness no ice cream like Marco Pierre White’s recipe. Am no dessert diva, but oh my did we ooh and agh wiping our plate clean in no time. A nibble of a British cheese trio, Stilton included straight from Covent Garden’s Neal’s Yard Dairy helped finish off our Australian Shiraz (Stump Jump). We much admired our takeaway bag (for the leftover cheese)…very in keeping with Jubilee weekend.

A Friday night and the atmosphere was buzzing in and out – perhaps not as much as its sister but Madinat naturally does attract more of a tourist clientele. Our only quibble was surprisingly for the Riv, its service, given the restaurant has been operating for over two months. Whilst our waiter was clearly trying and service was prompt, he would have benefited from intensive menu training – avoiding a call-out to the head waiters every time we had a query.

At AED450 per head for three courses including a reasonable bottle of vino and water, the Riv continues to deliver value for money in an upscale location. Food was exquisite with Chef Simon Conboy spotted in the open-plan kitchen, but sadly the service does need a polish for the new Riv to compete with Souk Al Bahar. Here’s to a four out of five FooDiva knife rating.

Rivington Bar & Grill is located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai next to the Agency wine bar. T; +971 4 366464. E; Licensed. Open daily for dinner and for lunch on Friday and Saturday. Price per head including vino AED450.

Have you dined at the new Riv? Which is your favourite? What’s your experience?

A bientôt.

FooDiva. x

FooDiva Rating: Knife Rating: 4
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12 Responses to “The new Riv on the block – how does it fare and compare?”

  1. dave reeder June 12, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I hear from chef Scott Stikes at the original Rivington Grill that the menus between the two outlets are to be more closely aligned. Their success shows how much people appreciate simple, honest food cooked well.

    • FooDiva June 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm

      Menus seem pretty similar to me already, but they do change a few dishes every couple of months in line with seasonality of produce. Agreed – simple dishes with quality ingredients. La Petite Maison is another example – allbeit a much more expensive one!

  2. Ruby Slippers June 12, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Having visited both Rivis within the same week (!), I agree, the food is on par and the ambience although a little on the touristy side still has a buzz about it which doesn’t make me miss the 45min trek to Souk al Bahar THAT much…. The terrace will be great in the winter months as well, for residents the minimal view of iconic Dubai landmarks doesn’t matter and hopefully that will continue to encourage a mix of clientele. The service is definitely not up to scratch though – we had the wrong drinks brought for us and had to wait ages for the correct order – and at the end of our most recent meal there the waiter shortchanged us by over Dhs300 – easily rectified but not something that should have happened in a restaurant of this calibre. However it won’t stop us from making this a regular pit-stop for date night and catch up with friends, it is just so nice to have somewhere at the Madinat finally that doesn’t require visitors as an excuse to go there.

    • FooDiva June 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

      Blimey that’s one major service flaw :(. Likewise…with the closure of P2, the hidden terraced brasserie above Pisces, we now have a decent, relaxed restaurant to make Madinat a good dinner option.

  3. IshitaUnblogged June 22, 2012 at 12:03 am

    I have heard a lot about Riv. 4 out of 5 knives from FooDiva means that the place should be bookmarked!

    I have heard a lot about Eton Mess. But have never tried this ‘historical’ dessert before. Just read your review on Marco Pierre’s Eton Mess as well – this one wins the crown, I guess.

    • FooDiva June 22, 2012 at 9:45 am

      If you’re a newbie to Eton Mess, definitely try it first at either of the two Riv locations.

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