One of the best things about our capital is the fact that at the nether end of most tube lines you’ll find picture perfect pockets of residential heaven. In these idyllic faux villages on the outskirts of the city, where yummy mummies rule and Waitrose is top of the shops, the stress and strain of the square mile seems miles away. One such spot is Richmond, land of the immaculate million pound property, bucolic stretches of the Thames and The Bingham – a riverside hotel housed in a Georgian town house, which happily encapsulates the two.
The boutique bolthole, which celebrates its 30th birthday this year, actually describes itself as “a restaurant with rooms” – proven recently by the addition of Mark Jarvis as Head Chef (formerly of Michelin-starred Texture and Le Manoir Aux Quat-Saisons). As well as top notch food and the aforementioned riverside location, the main draw of The Bingham is that it’s really bloody beautiful.
From its flawless Georgian facade complete with perfectly aligned spherical planting, to the cool grey elegance of perfectly proportioned bar (a room added by Lady Ann Bingham, whose sister married the first Earl of Spencer in 1821) – The Bingham reeks understated class. Which is probably why it’s become the site for many a stylish wedding.
Rooms follow the same, well-designed path – plush furnishings in tasteful muted tones, crisp white bathrooms with rain showers and high-tech baths that will create bubbles should you want them to, velvet sofas set with plump cushions and confounding comfortable beds. And have those pleasing touches, (the good kind of tea bag and shower gel, fluffy robes, thick coffee table tomes and unblemished orchids in pretty pots) which make your stay just a little bit better.
Talking of better, we recommended following that bubble bath with a drink in The Bingham’s bar before dinner – when the central chandelier is at its twinkling best, the fire is lit, and waiters mill around dispensing expertly mixed cocktails. Though we also loved it the next day, when the curtains had been flung open to let light stream in through floor-to-ceiling windows and guests lazily lounged over complimentary papers.
If we needed another reason to get behind The Bingham, then its restaurant was the straw that broke our soon-to-be-smitten backs. We’re not the first to say it, but success often lies on details and here they just kept on coming: bread served with a perfect quenelle of hand-churned butter, a surprise amuse bouche of ruby slivers of lime-cured tuna and picked asparagus tips, a clean Chilean white recommended by the charming sommelier.
We’d arranged to sample their Market menu, which offers three courses for just £25 (check the website for details), and let us tell you, this is astonishing value for money. We tried a tiny pile of ham hock risotto topped with a quivering, slow-cooked egg yolk and parmesan crumble; and silken bowl of artichoke soup finished with soft chunks of delicate flesh and a slick of herb green oil to start. Mains were a plate of gnocchi with smears and foams of this and that (and all of them good) and a circle of pork belly trussed up with puffs of crackling, a bright sauce of pumpkin and a handful of porky popcorn for good measure. Followed by a surprisingly sturdy slab of steamed pudding decked with sticky slithers of ginger and a slick oblong of cheesecake with a dancing chocolate hat.
In a final attempt to woo us, we received a plate of petit fours, two cloud-like madeleine, two brooding truffles and two caramel lollipops sprinkled with salt.
They needn’t bothered. They had us at hello.
For more information visit thebingham.co.uk