It is a truth universally acknowledged that the TW10 postcode in Richmond is more liberally endowed with lovely places to eat than E16, where I live, on the opposite side of London. It is also a truth universally acknowledged that attempting to drive from E16 to Richmond through the centre of London at noon on a sunny Sunday is an endeavour doomed to end in gridlock, frustration, bad language and possibly divorce (or murder). So before you set off on this epic journey of fifteen-miles-that-seems-like-a-thousand, you’d better be sure you have a good reason to go. Sunday lunch at The Bingham turned out to be a very good reason indeed.
The Bingham is a restaurant with rooms (or a boutique hotel, depending on your priorities!) tucked away beside the river in Richmond-upon-Thames, just at the start of the hill that leads you down the road to Petersham Nurseries. I had previously walked past its terrace while walking with friends along the riverbank and wistfully said “that’s where I want my next marriage vow renewal to be”. The property started life in 1740 as two elegant adjacent Georgian townhouses overlooking the Thames. The name comes from Lady Ann Bingham who rented the properties in 1821 and added a room to link the two properties into one large house. After falling into disrepair during the 20th century, the property was bought by the current owners in 1984 to operate as a small hotel, and underwent extensive refurbishment in 2006-2008 to turn it into the chic hideaway that it is today. Apart from the 15 rooms, there is also a cocktail lounge bar, a riverside garden and terrace, and a riverside restaurant, which is where we headed after our journey. I was keen to try Head Chef Mark Jarvis’s Modern British menu, particularly because he previously worked at two of my favourite restaurants: Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons and Texture. On the early Spring day when we visited, the attractive dining room decorated in warm wooden neutrals was flooded with sun from the French doors opening onto the balcony with a view of the river beyond. Even better – despite our arriving well after 2pm, nobody raised an eyebrow or muttered darkly about kitchens closing… because the Bingham serves Sunday lunch until the very civilised hour of 4pm!
Although there is a full a la carte menu available the rest of the week, Sunday lunch is a more intimate affair, comprising three courses and three choices for each course. Even with a limited choice, I still struggled – everything sounded good enough to order! Eventually Nick chose the pollock with Jersey Royals, pickled shallots and avocado purée while I settled on the spiced cauliflower risotto with tea-soaked raisins and toasted almonds. Nick’s dish certainly won the prize for pretty plating – it looked more like an edible sculpture than a starter. The flavours were as delicate as the colours and I loved those pink pickled shallots. My risotto was quite possibly one of the most unexpectedly wonderful things I have ever eaten. I have known for a long time that cauliflower and curry spice are a happy match, but it had never occurred to me to put them together in a risotto. The tea-soaked raisins added a sweet element which some might find odd, but together with the mild curry flavours, it reminded me appealingly of the flavours of South African bobotie. The added crunch of the toasted almonds completed this truly wonderful dish – a huge winner.
For mains, Nick decided on the salt marsh lamb with braised cabbage, sweet potatoes and rosemary jus. The thick chops had obviously been cooked as a rack so as to attain lightly crisped fat while retaining their moist, pink texture on the inside – Nick loved them. I, on the other hand, can never resist duck and so I ordered the Telmara farm duck leg, kohlrabi, carrot and orange purée. Once again, I fell deeply, madly in love with this dish. The duck was crispy on the outside yet fall-apart tender on the inside; and the sweet carrot & orange purée was the perfect foil for the rich meat. I have a slight obsession with barley, so I adored the barley risotto that it was served with. A beautifully balanced dish.
Seeing as it was Spring, neither of us could resist the lure of rhubarb for dessert. Nick went for the Yorkshire rhubarb, white chocolate, pistachio and lemon balm which arrived on a black plate that threw the vibrant red of the forced rhubarb into sharp relief. He jealously guarded his plate so I never even got a taste of this, but he assures me that the flavours were wonderful together and that the rhubarb tasted as good as it looked. I had the mascarpone cheesecake with a Yorkshire rhubarb & strawberry sorbet. This arrived looking almost too pretty to eat, adorned with micro leaves and flowers. The cheesecake was creamy and rich but beautifully balanced by the tart flavours of the glorious crimson sorbet. If memory serves, there were also freeze-dried strawberry flakes sprinkled on the plate which added both texture and a spike of concentrated strawberry flavour. We both thought we’d won the “who picked the best dessert” trophy.
With our espressi came a few petit fours so delicious that I wanted to buy them in bulk to take home with me. The dome-shaped chocolate truffles started melting almost as soon as you touched them, so delicate were they – and so deeply sinful! The madeleines were warm, buttery and addictive; and the little plastic-wrapped salted caramels were gooey sweet/salty perfection.
Sunday lunch at the Bingham is served from 12.30-4pm every Sunday and costs a very reasonable £38 for 3 courses (there is also a childrens 3-course menu £20 for children under the age of 12). Failing that, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served daily as well as afternoon tea Mon-Sat. The food was very impressive – confident cooking; clean, well-matched flavours; and beautiful plating. Staff were knowledgeable about the menu and very charming throughout our visit, and the sunny room itself with people drifting in for late lunches in happy groups made for a supremely relaxing meal. If you live locally, I’m very, very jealous. If you don’t it’s well worth the drive.
Liked: the excellent food, the sunny room, the relaxed serving hours, the value for money
Disliked: that it’s so far from my house 😉
On a scale of 1 to 10: 8.5
DISCLOSURE: I enjoyed this meal as a guest of The Bingham. I received no further remuneration to write this post and was not required to write a positive review. All opinions are my own and I retained full editorial control.
61 – 63 Petersham Road
Tel.: +44 (0) 20 8940 0902
E-mail: [email protected]