25th Anniversary… at the River Café

by Charles Lea

Time flies…

The 25th Anniversary of Lea & Sandeman is fast approaching. The official date must really be the beginning of the first month of sales, which was June 1988, even though a lot of work had been done before that. In fact the 25th anniversary of the Original Lunch, at the Café Delancey in Camden Town, really is not that far away now.

Even so we find that we were beaten to it by our friends at the River Café (of which we knew nothing twenty-five years ago) who have just celebrated their 25th Anniversary with a knockout party on a warm September evening in the Thames-side garden in front of the restaurant.

Co-founder Ruth Rogers recalled her partnership with Rose Gray, their early amateurishness, the gradual progress, some of the staff who have passed through over the years, and was joined on stage by her husband Lord Rogers and the current team. She spoke of the family atmosphere in the restaurant which had employed her children and those of Rose Gray. And of course she spoke of the sadness of the early death of Rose in 2010.

The party continued with music, Ferris wheel, Champagne and wine and lots of food, including absolutely memorable scallops cooked the wood-fired oven, spatchcocked quail (marvellously messy to eat standing with a drink in one hand) and various batches of wonderful risottos.

It will be a hard act to follow.