'The soup was good, but the potted shrimps were the real delicacy.'

The Petersham Hotel

Open daily for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner

As we came to the entrance we got our first glimpse of the stunning grounds. Green meadows and huge white blossoming trees stretched out beneath the 19th century building, surrounded by manicured flower beds and neat lawns.

Inside, the extensive windows gave us an excellent panoramic view of the glistening River Thames below and we felt totally detached from busy London life. We were shown to our table by a polite and well-dressed gentleman; the attentive waiter offered us champagne, which was fitting in the elegant surroundings.

To start, we were presented with a little appetizer – a lightly marinated smoked salmon dish with white bean, celeriac and a radish leaf garnish. It was refreshing, light and citrusy and it did exactly what an appetizer should do – left us wanting more.

We selected our courses from the spring lunch menu (£26.95 three courses) which the head chef, Alex Bentley changes every few weeks. We started with the soup of the moment, which is aptly named because there is only ever one batch made. The waiter was amused by my confusion as he presented me with a near-empty bowl with a few battered items and a sun-dried tomato. He joked that it was ‘dry soup’ before pouring over creamy butternut squash. The flavours fused together beautifully to create a soup with elements of surprise – a subtle sweet butternut squash with delicately battered soft cheeses and white fish with homemade herb croutons.

Our other selected starter was the Petersham potted shrimps with lobster butter, pickled cucumber and sourdough toast (£12.50). The soup was good, but the potted shrimps were the real delicacy. The presentation was beautiful, with the bright orange lobster butter, green pickled cucumber and purple sprouting garnish. The herby smooth cream cheese topping and crunchy sourdough toast set the shrimps off beautifully.

For the main, I opted for the confit of rabbit with sweetbreads, crispy polenta, grilled lettuce and watermelon, caesar and red wine sauce (£26.95 three courses). The traditional rabbit dish was reinvented with the French-style cooking and interesting accompaniments. The grilled lettuce and watermelon, which we were provisionally sceptical about, provided freshness and balanced to the otherwise rich meal. The polenta was light in the centre with a golden crunchy exterior. The only negative of the dish was the skewered meat which felt unnecessary and did not compare to the confit rabbit.

My partner had grilled fillet steak with tomatoes, mushrooms and béarnaise sauce (£32.50). The meat was succulent with a perfectly crispy skin and was complemented by a sticky rich sauce. The grilled fillet steak was perfectly cooked and tender, the wild mushrooms were full of flavour and the cooked vine tomatoes were sweet and juicy.

Both mains were hearty portions and by the time we came to pudding we were feeling quite full – but after glancing at the pudding menu we decided to give it a go. We ordered the rhubarb and orange pavlova and the chocolate moelleux with caramelised bananas (£26.95 three courses).The chocolate moelleux was gold and shimmery on top and was practically bursting with molten chocolate. It was presented with ice cream, crushed pistachios and swirls of chocolate sauce. It was sensational, but very rich and the molten chocolate flowed out as soon as we stuck our spoons into it. The pavlova was totally the opposite in composition, but equally as delicious. The meringue was airy and light, while the orange and rhubarb was zesty and refreshing, balancing out the sweetness of the sugary desert. We washed the meal down with a refreshing bottle of chablis which we finished outside on the sunny terrace.

Although the restaurant was very stylish, the overall ambiance was relaxed and friendly and we even spotted some children dining with their family. The food was delightful and as we left, from our very leisurely three-hour lunch, we glimpsed the cream teas which also looked divine – so we might just have to go back.

The Petersham Hotel, Nightingale Lane, Richmond, TW10; www.petershamhotel.co.uk; 020 8940 7471

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