The Petersham

The blurb

The Petersham Hotel is a great excuse to escape London for the day, without having to go too far. A short walk from Richmond station, the hotel is perched on Richmond Hill, with views overlooking the River Thames and surrounding Petersham Meadows. Though this would make a lovely spot to spend the night, you don’t have to be a hotel guest to dine in the restaurant. Specialising in modern British cooking, Head Chef, Jean-Didier Gouges creates aesthetically beautiful dishes, with fresh and seasonal produce.

The style

Built in 1856, The Petersham Hotel is boasting with charming Victorian character. The rooms are grand and spacious, with high ceilings, elegantly decorated with paintings and tasteful furniture. The most notable feature has to be the Portland stone staircase, which winds up through the middle of the hotel. The large, open restaurant has floor to ceiling glass windows, offering beautiful views across the gardens and towards the river. We were lucky enough to sit by the window – something I would definitely recommend requesting when dining here. The service is very attentive; wine glasses and water glasses were never left empty and the waiter took the time to tell us his recommendations from the menu.

The crowd

We visited The Petersham on a Friday afternoon for a late lunch. Our only companions were families enjoying afternoon tea and couples just finishing their meals. The atmosphere was very relaxing; during weekends I expect the restaurant is slightly busier but the tables are well-spaced, meaning you will never feel cramped or obtrusive.

The food

My weakness is good bread. Even though I knew I had a three-course meal ahead of me, I couldn’t resist the fresh and warm bread, delicately flavoured with rosemary, which I unashamedly smothered in salted butter. To start with, we had the ‘Fake Orange’, a chicken parfait encased in a salted caramel shell, designed to look like an orange, served with a blood orange chutney – the combination of salty and sweet was a welcomed surprise. On recommendation, we also had the scallops. They arrived on a smoking platter of dry ice, served inside a shell alongside a delicate quails egg, squid ink cauliflower purée, caviar and a miso dressing.

For our main, we both chose the Angus Beef Fillet, beautifully presented with edible flowers and completed with truffle jus. Though pretty to look at, for me, this dish was quite under-seasoned, the steak lacking salt and the potatoes pepper – though all was put right with the glass of Barolo we chased down each bite with.

Unfortunately, the dessert was a disappointing end to the meal. We chose ‘The Bonsai’, described as a haven of chocolate, hazelnut and matcha mousse, and the ‘Black and White’, a coconut pannacotta with a mandarin and mint foam. To look at, these desserts were stunning. ‘The Bonsai’ was designed to look like a tree, with candy floss for blossom and dark chocolate, for branches. The reality was a dry sponge, which lacked in any real flavour. Similarly, the coconut pannacotta was very plain, with a consistency almost like scrambled tofu. When I think of pannacotta, I imagine a creamy and smooth dessert. This was anything but. Neither of us wanted to finish it, opting instead for a second glass of Barolo.

In a nutshell

The service and the setting of this restaurant make it a lovely spot to while away the afternoon. On this occasion, the food may have been inconsistent, with potentially too much focus on the aesthetics of the dishes rather than the flavour, but there was so much else that was right about this experience, it wouldn’t stop me from returning.

The Petersham Hotel, Nightingale Ln, Richmond TW10 6UZ; 0208 9407471;;

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