“I’ve been dining at the River Café since the beginning, before it became the famous restaurant it is today. It started out, more than twenty years ago, as the office canteen for the architect Richard Rogers, because there was nowhere to eat near the Hammersmith Bridge, in West London. It’s still run by his wife, Ruth Rogers. Very quickly, the place became a haven for British writers, actors, architects, and artists.
“The cooking was wonderful from the start, of course, but the River Café has also always been a true pioneer when it comes to the quality of its ingredients, whether it’s wild salmon, or char-grilled calamari, or really proper fresh pasta. Once a year, many of the staffers—young, good-looking men and women who are quite knowledgeable about food—go to Italy and select the olive oil and wine they’ll feature in the restaurant.
“To this day, when I’m home in London, tired from a tremendous amount of traveling, I go there and feel very welcomed. Even though the River Café is always buzzing, the staffers immediately ask me how I am, where I’ve been. There’s the sense that interesting people are all around. You don’t actually know this, but you can feel it.”
Designer Paul Smith recently opened a women’s shop at Claridge’s, in Mayfair, London, and a men’s boutique in Crystals at CityCenter, in Las Vegas.
What to Order
“I, personally, love the pork cooked in milk, but the River Café (Thomas Wharf, Rainville Rd.; 44-20/7386-4200; dinner for two $95) is famous for Dover sole—and very generous portions.”
“Near the café, there’s a lovely path along the Thames that leads to the Dove (19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith; 44-20/8748-9474; lunch for two $78), a 17th-century pub. Stop in for excellent beer and steak and ale pie.”
“Sir John Soane’s Museum (13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields; 44-20/7405-2107; soane.org), set within three of the 19th-century architect’s former residences, exhibits an eclectic mix of nearly 30,000 items from around the world, many purchased at auction in England.”
London’s Top Address
“I visit Claridge’s (49 Brook St.; 44-20/7629-8860; claridges.co.uk; doubles from $930), in Mayfair, quite a lot. My little shop is there, and I’ve held fashion shows in the ballroom. Just like the River Café, I have a particular affection for the place.”