Glass attends the opening of Alain Ducasse’s Rivea in London

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The French and Italian Rivieras have proven a romantic escape from reality for urbanites for decades. At Rivea, Alain Ducasse’s newest culinary endeavour, an hour or two of that same, hazy escapism can be enjoyed in the centre of London.

It’s raining when I arrive at the Bulgari Hotel, Knightsbridge – usually sparkling – is drowning beneath a sudden and unexpected downpour. But the five-star hotel, as if painted pristinely onto a water-blurred canvas, still glimmers with luxury. The doorman quickly takes my umbrella, and it’s only when I come the collect it later that I recall the faded memory of the outer world’s miserable climatic situation. The restaurant is located on a lower floor just beyond the grand, ground floor lounge, which is dotted, like a film scene, with languid, well-dressed visitors. There is a grand bowl-shaped bar in the middle of the room – an impressive centre piece to a table laid with plush black armchairs and tall drinks.

Rivea is gleaming with newness. Accents of blue – the water glasses, the iridescent light features – are a pristine and gentle reminder of Ducasse’s other Rivea, by the sea in Saint-Tropez. The restaurant in London exists in duality, and has its own menu created by Damien, a protégée of Ducasse. It’s a refreshing rarity, in this city, to dine at a restaurant whose menu is so vastly populated by seafood dishes, but the chef spent years in Provence and Monaco perfecting his art, so I suppose it comes with the territory.

I start with a sea bream carpaccio, which is so delicately sliced it is almost transparent. Sitting atop it, confidently, are woody, roasted pine nuts and a collection of surprisingly sour, slow-cooked tomatoes. In true Italian tradition, a small and elegant plate of handmade pasta follows. The ravioli, carefully filled with artichoke and borage, shows an innate understanding and appreciation of vegetables and the wonderful flavours they can produce. For the main course, I choose the blue lobster with Provence artichokes. An attractive example of gastronomic architecture – the claw is stood almost upright while the plump, cherry-red portion of tail meat wraps delicately around. The two pieces are noticeably different in texture, the former is butter-soft and light, while the latter has a touch more complexity and bite.

All of the dishes that arrive at our table are beautifully presented, and we order quite a few, because the menu’s plates are all small and meant for sharing or sampling. To finish, I opt for a rich chocolate and praline tart called  Fin palet gianduja, which comes with a small bowl of slightly salted ice cream. The flavour is rich and dark, and the lightness of the ice cream makes for a perfect match.

When the dessert is cleared, I realise just how long exactly I’d been in Rivea. This is place to become immersed in the beautiful food culture of the Mediterranean, be spoilt by the attentive staff, and forget for a moment that you are actually in the centre of a busy, sometimes rainy, city.

by Becky Zanker

Rivea, Bulgari Hotel, 171 Knightsbridge, London SW7 1DW

Tel:020 7151 1025