Another Italian restaurant for Park Street has sprung up in July 2011, only a stone’s throw away from the neighbouring ASK, Vincenzo’s and Jamie’s Italian. With a previous successful restaurant in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, the owners of La Riva have now transferred their attention to Bristol, and we decided to head down to take advantage to the launch week offer of 20% off before 7.30pm – it’s in the perfect location for a bite to eat before our regular Wednesday night pub quiz at The Scotchman And His Pack on St Michaels Hill…
Owner Flamur Doku and his family have come to Bristol from Clacton-on-Sea, Essex. Doku does have some background in Bristol, though: while managing a branch of Strada in Birmingham, he was sent to Bristol for three months to oversee the opening of the Clifton branch. After further managerial roles at Brasserie Blanc and Piccolino, he wanted to open his own restaurant but couldn’t find premises in Birmingham or Bristol, hence moving to Clacton and opening the original branch of La Riva in May 2008. The Essex branch was successful for three years but he decided that he wanted to expand his customer base by moving to somewhere larger…and chose a city that he already knew. The Clacton restaurant has now been closed, and the family has moved to Bristol, in order to focus on the new Park Street venture.
Although the front of the restaurant is tiny, nestled between the entrance to Niko’s and the Bristol Guild, it certainly makes an impact with its bold red signage. La Riva occupies the former site of the Beijing Bistro, and those who visited in its previous incarnation will know that the size of the front of the building is deceptive. The restaurant, which feels comfortable and modern in shades of red in everything from the comfortable chairs to the bar stools and lights, stretches back a fair distance to hold a large number of tables and a large and very well-stocked bar quite comfortably.
After taking our seats, we were handed the menus. Divided, as per the majority of Italian restaurants, into starters, pasta, pizza, risotto, mains and sides, I was pleased to see some dishes on there that you don’t find on the menu in a lot of Italian restaurants that I’ve visited in Bristol: things like a bresaola starter (£6.75) with rocket, Parmesan shavings and lemon, roasted duck (£14.75), and a salmon and lentil dish (£12.95) that sounded amazing!
While we decided, we ordered our drinks – wine for two of our party, and soft drinks and beers for the rest, which were served in chilled glasses: a lovely touch.
For my starter, I opted for the bruschetta fungi (£5.75) – a triangle of toasted focaccia, topped with a grilled flat mushroom, garlic infused spinach, a round of grilled goats’ cheese and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts, and served with a side salad and a pesto and olive oil dressing. The bread was lovely, toasted on the outside and still beautifully soft in the middle. It was a great – and traditional – combination of flavours, cooked and presented well, and a decent portion size. Thumbs up so far..
Onto the main, and as others had ordered pasta dishes, I went for a Quattro Stagioni pizza (£9.45): a large, thin base pizza topped with cured ham, artichoke hearts, red and yellow peppers, mushrooms and – interestingly – grilled aubergines. The pizza was enjoyable enough, but could have done with being a little crispier at the edges. I had to admit defeat and pass the rest to a friend as I couldn’t finish it, and she was impressed!
The pasta dishes seemed to go down well, with my fellow diners – orders of fettucine alla carbonara (£8.65), linguine ai gamberoni (£11.75) and a small portion of spaghetti alla Bolognese (£4.95) were all quickly demolished. Our other dining companion’s Caesar salad (£5.95 for a small version) was mistakenly assumed to be a starter by the waitress, rather than being brought out with the mains – but when it came to paying, it had been removed from the bill, which was very kind of our hosts.
We passed on the desserts – partly as we were quite full, partly as they were quite highly priced at around £6 each…
The bill was brought over, and included a 20% discount from a flyer that we’d received, bringing the total to a very reasonable £60 for the five of us. There are still a few teething problems in terms of service that I’m sure will be ironed out soon, but the place has a great atmosphere and the food was enjoyable. There’s also a bargain lunch deal of under £6 for a main, so it’s the perfect place to go for a quick bite to eat if you’re in the Park Street area.
La Riva Restaurant & Bar
Telephone: 0117 929 3866
Address: 72 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5JX
Find La Riva on the Bristol Bites Directory…