The Blurb

Taking inspiration from France’s sun-splashed Côte d’Azur (and iconic hotspots like Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice and Antibes, in particular), the new Riviera restaurant has just opened its doors on upscale St James’s Street. The chic new outpost comes from Emerald Hospitality Group, known for local favourite haunts like Como in Kensington and El Norte, also located in Mayfair.

The Style

Riviera is unapologetically glam and very Mayfair with impossibly tall ceilings, geometric stylings and vast windows over St James’s. It’s bright and playful, a real change from the moody, dark Sake no Hana, which previously occupied this space. There is a mythical French Riviera air that reminds me of French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte (in particular, his exquisitely designed Cheval Blanc St-Tropez) and famed ceramist Roger Capron, who lived and worked in the South of France.

The Crowd

On a Sunday night, Riviera is jam-packed: friends celebrate birthdays; stylish couples are on first dates; and girls decked in Dior giggle in the bathroom. In short, it’s a fantastic scene—one that would not look out of place in one of the famed party restaurants that line the yacht-filled Port de Saint-Tropez.

The Food

Riviera’s inspiration is obvious, but there’s a good mix of surf and turf here, with plenty of unexpected dishes. For example, the lobster brioche feels more like New England lobster roll than South of France, but that’s not a bad thing. (Never let geography get in the way of your creativity, I say.) The fish is all expertly cooked and perfectly dressed—nothing is too overpowering or heavy-handed. I loved the stuffed zucchini flower starter (though it is quite small) and the sea bass tasted straight from the Mediterranean with a seared, crisp skin.

It’s a sharing concept, so for two people, I’d recommend a few starters to share (at least three) and perhaps two main courses. I always say that French fries are a good test of any restaurant, and here, they are fantastic. The tarte Tatin with thick chunks of apples for dessert is perfection.

The Drink

There is a gorgeous bar at Riviera (both on the ground floor and in the main dining room), and cocktails were flowing all night long; however, I went for the sommelier’s suggestion of the très French wine list, which ticks all the boxes.

In a Nutshell

It’s the south of France—in all of its glam glory—in a restaurant.

The Details

23 St James St, London SW1A 1HA; 020 8050 6932


Restaurants |