Restaurant review

Leeds Riva Blu restaurant review: Gino D’Acampo’s rebranding doesn’t live up to the hype – Kristian Johnson

Leeds is spoiled for choice when it comes to brilliant Italian restaurants.

Salvo’s in Headingley has built its steadfast reputation over decades, Station House Cafe & Bistro in Garforth is considered Leeds’ finest Italian on TripAdvisorwhile Zucco in Meanwood was one of 11 Leeds restaurants included in the 2019 Good Food Guide.

So if you love lasagna or are craving pizza night, Leeds is the place to be. In such a competitive market, standards are incredibly high and while the food at Riva Blu was reasonable, there is certainly better value elsewhere in town.

Read more: Leeds’ best restaurant crowned

The redesign of Gino D’Acampo’s downtown restaurant on Park Row has given it a sleek new look. The pink flowering tree in the entryway is striking, while the attractive kitchen views offer a glimpse of the giant wood-fired pizza oven.

My wife and I sat at the window overlooking Greek Street as the sun streamed in through the window on a hot Thursday evening. The drinks menu has a great selection of beers, cocktails and non-alcoholic options and I sipped my Birra Moretti while considering what food to order.

The drink selection at Riva Blu was wide and varied

A dish of giant green olives arrived within minutes and although the chili and rosemary flavors were punchy, the olives themselves were a little tough and not as meaty as I expected.

We then shared a starter, the tomato bruschetta, which was probably the highlight of the meal. The crispy grilled ciabatta was drenched in olive oil and topped with fresh tomatoes and the generous helping of basil really lifted this dish.

Tomato Bruschetta at Riva Blu

In truth, it went downhill from here. As an adopted Yorkshireman, I was a little apprehensive about paying £18.50 for a pizza, but thought, “When in Rome (or in this case, Leeds)”.

When it hit the table 15 minutes later, I thought I made an inspired choice. It looked great, with beef tenderloin shavings and a big mound of fresh arugula on top.

But my first bite was disappointing. The same was true of the second and third.

The beef didn’t quite have the salty, rich quality I expected and there were large areas of pizza with no toppings at all. Having paid nearly £20 I expected much, much more.

Spaghetti carbonara at Riva Blu
Spaghetti carbonara at Riva Blu

My wife’s spaghetti carbonara was a bit better. The smoked pancetta left a lingering, smoky taste in the mouth, but the sauce was bland and the whole dish lacked a bit of punch. Again, this seemed overpriced at £15.50.

The bill came to £63.80 in total and admittedly many Italian restaurants in Leeds have similar prices. The aforementioned Salvo’s, Station House Cafe & Bistro, and Zucco aren’t exactly cheap, but one thing sets them apart: their food is spectacular.

The same couldn’t be said for Riva Blu. There was nothing particularly wrong with the spaghetti carbonara or the pizza carpaccio – they were both ok – but it was certainly not to the same impeccable standards as other Italian restaurants in Leeds.

If you fancy an Italian, there are plenty of better options elsewhere.

The law project

  • Cerignola Olives – £5
  • Bruschetta with tomatoes – 7,70 €
  • Carpaccio Pizza – £18.50
  • Spaghetti Carbonara – €15.50
  • Everleaf Gin & Tonic – £5.75
  • Pint of Birra Moretti – £5.50
  • Service charge – 5.80

Total: £63.80

Riva Blu, 11-12 Park Row, Leeds, LS1 5HD

Book a table online or call 0113 244 3220.

Thursday to Saturday, open from 12 p.m. to 11 p.m. From Sunday to Wednesday, open from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m.

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