Walking down the glamorous circular staircase from Bulgari’s bar, I felt like I was in a Busby Berkeley movie, or Grace Kelly arriving at a royal reception. I loved the clever reversal of the Rivea—in a hotel that was mutedly lit throughout, it was the downstairs, windowless restaurant that was the brightest and airiest room. There was nothing stuffy about the decor, either—the brightly colored glasses and pepper pots saw to that.
Rivea is the latest kitchen to be opened under the auspices of legendary French chef Alain Ducasse; the head chef, Damien Leroux, has spent more than ten years under his tutelage. We were encouraged to choose five dishes per person, since the courses arrive as small plates designed for sharing; that suited us fine.
The lobster gelé, the nutmegged gnocchi, and the warm octopus salad all captured that fresh taste of springtime, though the standout dish was probably the lamb. At least, that is, until dessert, when the "thin gianduja palet," which turned out to be an impossibly smooth and caramely chocolate mousse, made us instantly forget all else but its soft slide down our throats. A lemon pie came with an equally delicious accompaniment of limoncello. The goat’s cheeses, all from Britain, were something of a revelation, full-flavored and as good as anything we’d had in France.
It’s always a good sign when you find yourselves the last to leave a restaurant, without even noticing. Rivea is an extreme, and elegant, treat.