AS the world famous Michelin-starred River Café celebrates 30 years in business, here are 30 things you ought to know about the Italian restaurant and its celebratory new cookbook, River Cafe 30...

1. River Café 30's pages are edged luminous pink, to match the restaurant's iconic pizza oven. "We wanted to make a book that reflected not just the food we cook, but also the restaurant we have, the bright colours, the clear graphics," says co-founder and chef Ruth Rogers, 69.

2. Writing the book was a joint effort - by Ruth, River Café head chefs Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli, and the late Rose Gray, River Cafe's co-founder, is also credited.

3. Ruth calls the book "a tribute to my partner for all those years", Rose, who died from cancer in 2010.

4. The pair met in 1969, and started The River Café in 1987.

5. In the book Ruth writes: "Rose is The River Café, in everything we do. She is in the way we season the lamb before we put it on the grill. She's there in the way we roll out our pasta dough and slow-cook our vegetables."

6. Talking of lamb and pasta, they were on the menu from day one. "I remember the first day," Ruth recalls, "one of us made sandwiches and one of us made either a pasta or grilled lamb - we had a very short menu."

7. The day the duo first saw the site that would become The River Café, they met at Drummonds on the Kings Road, which today is a Maccy D's. Ruth writes: "You could say that The River Cafe was actually conceived in a McDonalds."

8. They started with nine tables, and now manage more than 250 covers every lunchtime.

9. Legend has it they began as a staff canteen. "We didn't," Ruth notes, adamant. "We started as a restaurant, but we were allowed by the restrictions to only open at lunchtime, and only for people who worked in the neighbouring offices."

10. Those restrictions were enforced by Hammersmith planners, but Ruth says they "were really brilliant for us, because we grew with the restaurant".

11. However, at one point there was a (failed) petition, with 100 signatures, sent to the council to have them closed down.

12. River Café 30 owes a lot to Ruth and Rose's debut cookbook. "We revisited the Blue book, the iconic one we wrote in 1994. We thought, 25 years later, 'How have these recipes changed?' Or, 'Could we adapt them?'"

13. "Some of them are just perfect the way they were," says Ruth, like the pressed chocolate cake and ricotta al forno.

14. Others take into account new cooking techniques and changing tastes. "There's a new recipe for a hard pasta called mezze paccheri with langoustine and with pecorino - that's so unusual to have a fish pasta with cheese," buzzes Ruth.

15. And some are ridiculously simple - like the blood orange sorbet with only three ingredients.

16. Turn straight to page 311 for 'the crowning recipe': "The chocolate nemesis," says Ruth. "It's such a strong flavour, the intensity of the chocolate; it's creamy without cream; you put it in your mouth and it just melts."

17. "All the recipe photos were taken outside in the sun, so we would cook the food then put it on the table," says Ruth.

18. In fact, art and style are crucial, both to the book and the restaurant. "It's not an art book," explains Ruth, "but it's a book, when you're cooking, you can look at and see beautiful art."

19. Flick through and you'll find menus illustrated by famous names. "We approached artists who really have a close relationship with the restaurant, and gave them the menus to do whatever they wanted with."

20. Discover doodles by Cy Twombly, Damien Hirst and Ellsworth Kelly.

21. Ruth believes there is an inherent connection between food and art: "Usually good artists love good food, and a lot of the artists I know are really good cooks."

22. Aside from the book, the restaurant celebrated turning 30 with a huge party, featuring 1,000 guests and a Ferris wheel.

23. When it comes to how food culture has changed in the last 30 years, Ruth says: "People travel more and more; they are more curious, and want to eat the things they very often ate in a foreign country. People are more interested, more ambitious, more excited about food."

24. She doesn't do clean eating: "'Clean eating' is not a term I use, but I do worry about a healthy approach to food."

25. In terms of food anxiety, she says: "I worry about sustainability, I worry that food is of a good quality."

26. And teamwork is key. "Development comes day by day, you try and learn from the people you work with," says Ruth. "I think chefs, when they leave the River Cafe, leave not just knowing how to cook."

27. Chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Theo Randall and April Bloomfield are all River Cafe alumni.

28. The restaurant has one of the best views of the Thames.

29. The herb garden is just asking to be nibbled on.

30. Most important of all to Ruth is that "we've created a restaurant with the values that make people feel like they are coming home".

Here are a few recipes from the book to try at home:



(Serves 2)

2 medium Violetta artichokes with their stalks

Juice of 1 lemon

200g white crabmeat

2tsp brown crabmeat

2tbsp roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle

Sea salt and black pepper


1. Prepare the artichokes. First cut off some of the stalk, leaving about 5cm attached. Cut or break off the tough outer leaves, starting at the base, until you are left with the pale inner part. Then peel the stalk with a potato peeler, leaving only the pale tender centre. Trim the pointed top of the artichoke straight across, which will reveal the choke. Remove the choke with a teaspoon. Slice the artichoke vertically as thinly as possible. As each artichoke is prepared, drop it into a bowl of cold water with half of the lemon juice.

2. Combine the white and brown crabmeat with the parsley, remaining lemon juice and the extra virgin olive oil. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Drain the artichokes and stir lightly through the crab to combine.

3. Season again and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.



(Serves 6)

1kg fresh spinach leaves, blanched and squeezed dry

50g unsalted butter

A small bunch of fresh marjoram

400g fresh ricotta

40g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

3 egg yolks

1/4 nutmeg, grated

120g Parmesan, freshly grated, plus extra for serving

225g unsalted butter

A bunch of fresh sage, leaves picked

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1. Melt the butter, add the marjoram, and cook for a minute. Add the spinach, and stir to combine the flavours. Season, leave to cool, then chop roughly.

2. In a large bowl, lightly beat the ricotta with a fork, then sieve in the flour. Add the egg yolks, nutmeg and Parmesan and fold in the cooled spinach mixture until well combined. Taste for seasoning.

3. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Using two dessertspoons, take a small spoonful of mixture and, using the other spoon, mould the mixture so that it forms a gnocchi (a small oval dumpling). Place on the baking tray. The gnocchi should all be the same size, about 2cm in diameter.

4. To make the sage butter, heat the butter gently so it separates. Pour out the clarified butter into a clean pan and return to the heat. When very hot, add the sage leaves. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

5. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Gently place the gnocchi in the water in batches - it is important not to overcrowd the pan. When the gnocchi come back to the surface, remove carefully with a slotted spoon and briefly place the spoon on kitchen paper to drain off excess water.

6. Serve immediately on warm plates with the sage butter and extra Parmesan.



(Serves 10)

Unsalted butter and flour for the tin

400g best-quality bitter-sweet chocolate (70%), broken into pieces

300g unsalted butter

10 eggs, separated

225g caster sugar

4tbsp cocoa powder


1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Butter and line a 30cm round cake tin that is 7.5cm deep, with greaseproof paper.

2. Melt the chocolate with the butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (the water should not touch the base of the bowl). Remove the bowl from the pan and cool a little, then whisk in the egg yolks. Add the sugar and cocoa powder and mix well.

3. Beat the egg whites until they will form soft peaks. Fold into the chocolate mixture, a third at a time.

4. Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cake has risen like a souffle and is slightly set.

5. Remove from the oven. Place a piece of greaseproof paper, and a plate on top of that, on the cake - the plate should fit exactly inside the tin - and press down firmly, then weight the plate. Leave to cool for 30 minutes before turning out. Cool completely before serving.

n River Café 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen and Joseph Trivelli is published by Ebury Press, priced £28. Available now.