River Cafe's Sister Restaurant Set to Stay

Sylvia's becomes permanent fixture on Hammersmith's riverfront

Sylvia's dining room offers views of the river
Sylvia's dining room offers views of the river

July 28, 2023

Hammersmith’s celebrated River Cafe is making its sister restaurant Sylvia’s a permanent fixture.

The cafe has been granted permission by Hammersmith & Fulham Council to take over two floors of Thames Wharf on a permanent basis, along with chairs and tables in an outside seating area.

In 2021, the cafe added two extra spaces for special events, a private dining room for up to 18 guests and a second restaurant which can accommodate up to 40 people called Sylvia’s - named after River Cafe founder Ruth Rogers’ mother.

Sylvia’s is within the former meeting rooms of Ruth’s husband Richard Rogers’ architectural practice, to the east of the main River Cafe. The practice moved out eight years ago and the rooms were then used by a wellness company, which was forced to cease trading due to the pandemic.

In 2021, the empty space was taken over and renamed by the River Cafe, which described it as “sensational” and said: “ Located directly across the garden of The River Cafe, the room faces south with floor-to-ceiling windows looking on to the Thames, with direct access to the River Walk.

“We have covered the floor with an ocean-blue carpet, just like the one in The River Cafe and there is a beautiful piano waiting to be played. The space feels vibrant with forty people—and cosy with twenty.”

The cafe is now expanding further by also moving into the floor above and locally based architecture and design practice Stuart Forbes Associates, which redesigned the original River Cafe for a relaunch in 2008, was tasked with redesigning the extra space.

Ruth Rogers
Ruth Rogers

In a statement supporting the application, which can be seen in full on the council website using the reference 2023/01084/FUL, the practice says the cafe is looking to expand its administration, staff welfare and retail functions, with shop space selling a selection of food, wine, homewares and books.

It says: “ The River Café is lacking space for staff welfare, so it is proposed that some of the first floor mezzanine area available in Block 2 will be dedicated to this function. Consolidating administration operations into the remaining mezzanine level will also be of great benefit to the business.

“ Shop The River Cafe is a small online delivery platform, selling some homewares alongside picking and packing of fresh food for small-scale and local deliveries. This operation requires an area for preparation, storage and display, which are also proposed to be based within Block 2.

“ In 2016, a Planning Application (2016-04874-FUL), granted temporary change of use (Use Class B1) to restaurant / cafe (Use Class A3) and provision of external seating. The use of this space as a private dining space in recent times has been very successful for both The River Cafe and the public realm, helping to animate this part of the riverfront and river walk.

“This aspect of The River Cafe’s offer has now become integral to the business and this application seeks to make permanent the previously granted temporary use.”

The interior of Sylvia's restaurant
The interior of Sylvia's restaurant

Sylvia's can be booked by contacting the River Cafe’s events department, but only by those with very sizeable wallets, as menus offering three courses are priced from £120 per person.

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