* One of our Top 12 London Hotels of 2011
Rachel Seed jumps onto the District line for a night away from the mean streets of Central London at The Bingham, a charming boutique B&B with a five-star attitude, a warm welcome and cooking worthy of stars.
Richmond has experienced a revival of interest since the Pitt-Jolies decided to base themselves there during the filming of one of Brad’s movies this summer. Photos of the brood shopping on the High Street, popping into their local Halfords or on a family trip to the movies were splashed across the papers on a weekly basis over the summer as Londoners gawped at them living just like us. Apparently Angie’s assistant was ordered into every restaurant before they booked in order to check that there was plenty on the menu for her exacting requirements. I wonder if they went to The Bingham? Had they done so, I’m sure the assistant found plenty to delight on the menu.
The Bingham is a London hotel that feels like you’re escaping to a beautiful country manor house for the weekend. There is something rather wonderful about ‘weekending’ in our own fair city and The Bingham allows you to feel like you’re escaping the city without the stresses and cost of travel. The hotel is a bit of a trek from the tube station, but if, like me, you are light with luggage, it’s a really lovely walk and a great way to see this bustling, vibrant town. If not, or if you’re wearing anything other than flat shoes, jump in a cab. I love Richmond, with its leafy feel, fantastic shops, beautiful architecture and weaving river. It’s also a great base for exploring much of outer London, particularly if you’re the sporting type. Close by is Twickenham for rugby, Wimbledon for tennis, Richmond Park for walking (or deer chasing, if your hound is of the pesky kind) and there’s even a pitch-and-putt golf course nearby.
The Bingham sits pretty right on the bank of the Thames. Behind the classic Georgian facade lies a Tardis of contemporary loveliness. I immediately feel as though I’ve stepped into a sophisticated house party, in the home of very stylish, wealthy friend. A feeling that is intensified as we sip glasses of Champagne in the beautiful bar later, surrounded by smart couples drinking cocktails and playing board games. It’s all very relaxed and laid back, as though the guests were utterly unburdened by life. Though, sadly, I can’t say the same for myself, I certainly felt lifted from day-to-day realities, even for just one evening.
The hotel has a long and interesting history and has been in the same family for decades – with each new generation putting their own stamp and improvements on the property. It’s latest incarnation as a stylish boutique hotel – or restaurant with rooms – is hugely successful.
Our room is enormous and has one of the best views of any London hotel I’ve stayed in. A gorgeous bay window takes in the curve of the river with only the immaculate hotel gardens and terraces in between you and the water. Had my stay been for a couple of nights (next time!), I could happily have sat for hours in the thoughtfully provided squashy chair and watched the world go by on the river. Instead I made the most of the fantastic shower, padded across the thick carpet, and sank into the huge and incredibly comfy four-poster bed, and did the crossword with a pot of tea before dressing for dinner.
And yes, you should dress for dinner here. It’s not that it’s pretentious or that there’s a snooty dress code, but they’ve made such an effort that you feel you really should too. Make sure your waistband isn’t too snug, though, as a few extra inches will be needed between your descent to the restaurant and your retiring to your room.
The restaurant is a sophisticated, grown-up space, with its muted decor, pale golds and recessed lighting. A contrast to the splashes of colour in the bar. I loved both. There was a great deal of expectation from this meal as chef Shay Cooper’s previous post was heading up the kitchen at Hotel Endsleigh in Devon, which is one of my all-time favourite dining experiences. ‘Modern British’ is an overused phrase when it come to cooking styles, but Mr Cooper is the king of it and, as far as I’m concerned, the phrase was made for him.
The amuse of Parmesan custard with a tomato foam was a delightful, playful start. We enjoyed the oohs and aahs from the elegant older Richmond-dwelling couple at the table next to ours as they ate theirs shortly after (and we enjoyed eavesdropping on their fascinating conversations throughout dinner!). The lobster lasagne that followed was divine. Wafer thin pasta with silky smooth cauliflower purée punctuated by the sweet, meaty chunks of lobster. The foie gras was perfectly seared and smooth against crunchy sweet and sour turnips. More oohing and aahing from the table next door as they munched through their starters and we waited for our mains. The lamb done two ways was a knock out and the cheese mash – cheesy mash! Sublime! – was so sensational that we practically licked the little copper pot clean and wished we had the courage to ask for another. The grouse was equally good with its moist, tender meat sweetened delightfully with truffled honey. Both dishes were as picture-perfect as cooking of this high standard should be, and the plates were beautifully balanced with vegetables in many forms and textures – pickled, puréed and pressed. The strawberry parfait was light and refreshing after an intense couple of courses, while the tiramisu packed more of a boozy punch and was complimented wonderfully with an intense espresso ice cream.
The staff were professional and passionate about their role. None more so than the charming, young and very well-spoken sommelier. It seems to be the thing in London now to employ a handsome public school boy wine buff to help you choose your tipple. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – he’s informative, clever, fun and never snooty. The couple at the other table next door (I’m not normally quite this nosy – it was just in the name of research!) were delighted with their recommendation of a very reasonably priced Shiraz from Australia’s Adelaide Hills). He also chose some wonderful wines for us, including a truly spectacular Spanish number called 5 Fincas from Castillo Perlada and a particularly lovely Pascal Joliuet Sancerre.
That the restaurant was packed on a Monday night says it all. As we chatted to our fellow guests, we realised that we weren’t the only ones taking the ‘staycation’ concept to a whole other level by jumping on the Tube, eating like royalty, playing competitive games of Scrabble in the bar before stumbling upstairs to sleep it all off in five-star surroundings with nothing but the sound of the flowing river in our ears. I think I’m onto something here. Keep it local and escape your worries with an overnight stay at The Bingham. Highly recommended.
The Bingham, 61-63 Petersham Road, Richmond-Upon-Thames, TW10 6TU
Tel: +44 207 8940 0902, www.thebingham.co.uk
Read the rest of our Top 12 London hotels feature here.