Menu illustrated by Michael Craig Martin

In 1991, after an exhibit at the Serpentine Galleries in London, Ellsworth Kelly went to dinner at The River Café, where he proceeded to draw on the back of the menu — and then do a self-portrait in the mirror of the men’s bathroom.

Incredible, right?

Well, that’s just one of many artist anecdotes in the 30-year history of the Michelin-starred restaurant, which was co-founded by Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray. Cy Twombly scribbled on his own menu when he was there. Damien Hirst, a regular, painted on six and incorporated his signature polka dots and paint splatters. You can see this collision of worlds, art and food, in the restaurant’s heavyweight cookbook, River Cafe London, which features 120 recipes as well as illustrated menus by 10 major artists, from the aforementioned names to Peter Doig, Ed Ruscha and Michael Craig-Martin (above) — a perfect gift for moms who are both hearty gastronomes and art lovers. Fun fact: Even the cover features a font from yet another artist, Josef Albers.

Below, the restaurant’s baked pears recipe — some sweets to sweeten up your Mother’s Day.


Serves six


6 ripe Comice pears
1/4 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c soft dark brown sugar
3/4 c Marsala
1/4 c dry white wine
2 cinnamon sticks, roughly broken
Crème fraîche, to serve


Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut a small slice from the rounded end of each pear so that it will stand up, then remove the core. Spread a little butter over the skin of each pear and stand them in an ovenproof dish.

Dust the pears with the brown sugar. Pour the Marsala and white wine into the dish. Scatter the cinnamon sticks over the pears, then cover the dish loosely with foil. Bake for about 30 minutes.

Remove the foil and lower the oven temperature to 300°F. Continue to bake for a further 30 minutes or until the pears are very tender and slightly shriveled. Serve warm with their juices and crème fraîche.