The Petersham and the Bingham on Richmond Hill

DESIGNED BY Victorian architect John Giles and opened in 1865, The Petersham hotel sits on Richmond Hill with views over the River Thames. Nearby, the Bingham offers Michelin fabulous cuisine.

The Petersham on Richmond Hill
 The Petersham on Richmond Hill

THE VIEW OF THE Thames from Richmond Hill, which so inspired countless artists, also influenced Victorian architect John Giles, when he was asked to design an imposing hotel on its slopes. He’d just finished London’s first ‘grand hotel’, the Langham in Portland Place and his client wanted something equally important, making the most of the riverside setting.

Completed in 1865 in a style known as ‘florid Italian Gothic’, with tower, pitched roofs and decorative ironwork balconies overlooking the Thames, it’s still an imposing building. Now called The Petersham, it certainly deserves its four stars.

The Petersham is privately owned by the Dare family and they’ve kept the Victorian flavour. Here are marble floors, a grand staircase – the largest unsupported stone one in Europe – Italian oil paintings, chandeliers and red plush hangings. But they’ve added all the 21st century ‘must haves’ like en suite bathrooms, big beds, fine food and friendly staff, headed by manager Andrew Crompton. It’s a favourite with international actors, rugby stars and referees. Pop icon Mick Jagger – who lives on Richmond Hill – often pops in for dinner and there are lots of photographs of famous folk in the hall. Popular, too, are the Petersham’s ‘tutored’ wine dinners where guest learn about oenology and each course has an appropriate wine.

A bedroom with view of the Thames
 A Petersham bedroom with view of the Thames

I felt as though I was staying in a well-run, intimate country house, not a large 60-room hotel. And when I got up early and strolled out on to my balcony, there was that wonderful view of the river, bathed in golden light. My comfortable room in shades of cream, had dark mahogany furniture and linen cushions embroidered with deep red and sharp pink Oriental poppies. The bathroom was large with lots of fluffy towels, snuggly bathrobe and slippers.

After I arrived, I had gone down for afternoon tea in the Restaurant At The Petersham. From this elegant dining room with its huge picture windows, I had yet another river vista. Andy, the Head Waiter, concerned that I was eating on my own, asked if I’d like something to read? It’s gestures like that that make this hotel deserving of its stars. They don’t stick the solitary guest behind a pillar or next to the service door here. Tea, with assorted sandwiches, scones with strawberry jam and Cornish clotted cream and several quite irresistible homemade pastries, was delicious. I’d have eaten the lot had I not been booked into the nearby Bingham Hotel for dinner.

The Bingham restaurant
The Bingham restaurant

In contrast with The Petersham, The Bingham’s exterior is modest 18th-century brick hiding a chic boutique hotel and restaurant. It’s located on  a slight slope above the river Thame and guests can eat on the terrace in summer. Winner of the Best Small Hotel Award (it has 15 bedrooms), the restaurant has three rosettes and in February chef Shay Cooper was awarded a coveted Michelin Star. Simple grey walls, with subdued lighting from sparkly chandeliers, showed up exotic fresh orchids on the tables.

Guided by Rish, our smiling Nepalese waiter, we started with a delicate amuse-bouche of minced quail under a butternut squash mousse, decorated with slivers of fresh ginger. Served in a tiny glass, it gave a delicious edge to our appetites. I chose roast quail with leek, potato and artichoke salad, a potato terrine and hollandaise sauce as my melt-in-the-mouth main course. My companion chose her favourite roast monkfish with a positive “seaside” of delicate shellfish, seafood bisque, fennel marmalade and citrus oil. We were recommended Pinot Noir Antoine Rodet from Burgundy for me and Caliterra Reserva, a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc to go with the fish. Both were excellent.

Dine outside on the Bingham balcony
Dine outside on the Bingham balcony

Pudding choice was – as usual – hard. I had the Amadei Chocolate Tart with orange chantilly, passion fruit sorbet, cocoa tuille, while my friend had Honeycomb rice pudding with red wine jelly, caramelised figs and coffee ice cream. Divine. We could hardly rise from our seats, but just managed some of the tiny, toothsome sweets Rish brought with the coffee. I recommend the blood orange and ginger jelly one, not to mention the dark chocolate truffle and maybe the caramel with pistachio. Decisions, decisions.

If that’s what Shay Cooper can do with one Michelin star, I can see why guests come 12 miles down from Central London to dine at The Bingham.

The Petersham Hotel, Nightingale Lane, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6UZ; tel: (020) 8940 7471;

The Bingham Hotel, 61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 6UT; tel: (020) 8940 0902;

Report by Pat Moore.