Situated as it is on the upper floor of the harbour office building at Bourne End marina on the Thames, The Riverlight Restaurant provides diners with a beautiful panorama of the river and surrounding countryside, although during my own visit there, my attention was quickly diverted when I was presented with an array of delicious lunchtime offerings from Sam and Tom, two of the very friendly restaurant staff .
Although having lived nearby in Burnham Village for more than twenty years, and familiar with much of the surrounding terrain and Thames reaches, I had to confess to never having been down to the marina, which is only a short walk from the main road through Bourne End, and therefore I was unaware of the Riverlight. How glad I was to have now found it.
I was told that the restaurant has only been running in its current identity for about a year, and the team of staff, both inside and outside of the kitchen, are clearly working hard to make an impact on both the river users and the wider community of Bourne End and its surroundings.
The lunchtime menu offers a ‘mix & match’ style of dishes, not dissimilar to a tapas arrangement in terms of selection , and which, although described as ‘small dishes’, were amply filling for my appetite. The caramelised pork belly was succulent, the fattiness offset with a spiced plum jam and small balls of compressed pickled apple which I had never come across before but which complemented the pork perfectly.
Although I am not the greatest lover of fresh coriander, the flavour of which I find can overpower a lot of dishes (and many places decorate food far too liberally with the leaves), the use of it in the lime and coriander crusted baby monkfish was perfect. A hint is all that is needed, allowing the delicate flavour of the fish to be appreciated. But this is one of the strengths of head chef Martin Lee’s creations; delicate blends of flavours to excite taste buds. Next up was Pan Fried Scallops with golden raisin and chorizo dressing. This was an appetizing contrast of flavours: delicate scallops and spicy chorizo. Tom informed me that the third dish put before me was one of their most popular, and I soon discovered why. Tender stem broccoli with poached egg and parmesan with truffle and chilli dressing, the latter a fabulous mix to excite the laziest of taste buds.
Had it not been a bit of a chilly February day, I might have been tempted to sit at one of the tables on the outside terrace, overlooking the quayside clustered with an assortment of boats laid up for the winter. I can imagine that these will be popular tables in the warmer evenings to come. Indeed, both inside and out, the Riverlight provides a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, an ideal venue for any type of get together.
Having been fortunate enough to try several of the lunchtime dishes, Sam invited me to return later that day to join the staff in sampling Martin’s creations for the new menu. This was certainly one of the easiest decisions for me to make! I returned later that day and met James Patch, one of the joint founders of the Coopers Trading Company, whose mission over the last few years has been to provide a stylish dining experience, sourcing sustainable local produce whenever possible, together with an eclectic selection of wines and beers.
Dish after dish was served up as comments and compliments (mainly compliments) were offered by the seemingly ravenous crew. James told me that he took Martin on as head chef about eighteen months ago and the collaboration to my mind has paid off as evidenced by the creations I was fortunate enough to sample. These included Wild Mushroom Risotto (you had to be quick to get a taste of this!) and Lentil Ragout, Shallot Tarte Tatin with Goat’s Cheese Crumble. Meat eaters could not fail to go for the lamb. The desserts were visual spectacles even before tasting: the Salted caramel on Ginger Sponge with Caramelised Banana was delightful but my very favourite has to be the Blood Orange Soufflé with Bitter Chocolate Ice Cream and a Grand Marnier Sauce, and I will weep if this is not included on the new menu.
The feast, and that is the only way I can describe this experience, was naturally finished off with a Coopers coffee, which can also be enjoyed in the sister establishments at Coopers Roastery in Marlow and the Tuckshop also in Bourne End.
The endeavour and commitment that this young team has put into Riverlight deserves success and I am sure they will achieve it. I cannot wait to get back there and enjoy more of these excellent culinary offerings.