Books of the Year: River Cafe

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Christopher Hirst selects his favourite cook books of 2017

 3. River Cafe 30 by Ruth Rogers, Sian Wyn Owen, Joseph Trivelli and Rose Gray

Celebrating the 30th year of the celeb-magnet restaurant, River Cafe 30 (Ebury, £28) is the most beautiful cookbook of the season. Containing contributions by chef-patronnes Ruth Rogers and the late Rose Gray, together with six of their colleagues, its cutting-edge design echoes the first three River Cafe books that caused such a kerfuffle when they first appeared. This one is even more glam with pages edged in neon pink and containing illustrations from art world stars including Ellsworth Kelly, Ed Ruscha and Damian Hirst. So why should Rogers & Gary fans hesitate before snapping it up? Well, the fact is that they will already have the book or at least most of it. All but 30 of the recipes in this fattish (300-odd pages) tome appeared in the first River Cafe book (the blue one from 1996).But if you want to introduce someone to recipes that changed the face of British gastronomy or if your blue book has dropped to bits or if you simply want the 30 newcomers including mezzo paccheri (a gastronomically blasphemous combination of langoustine and pecorino) and white asparagus with bottarga butter then you have a rationale. One benefit of River Cafe 30 is that it reminds you just how simple and practical many of the blue book recipes were. Since receiving my copy, I’ve made rebollita, the transporting vegetable stew incorporating cavolo nero, stale sourdough and an unfeasible quantity of olive oil, twice in a week. It was sensational. I intend going on to pumpkin soup, spaghetti with lemon, pasta e fagioli along with a host of other old favourites. The only drawback of the book is that such beauty should never come within 100 yards of a bottle of olive oil. You’re likely to cry if you spatter the pages that reflect the restaurant’s colour scheme of pink (the wood oven), yellow (the pass) or blue (the carpet). Maybe a photo-copier is the answer. Suitors should note that  River Cafe 30 would make the most heart-melting Christmas present. But whatever reason you concoct, you should buy this drop-dead gorgeous book.