It is bank holiday weekend, and circa 80% of London-based friends and colleagues have used the 3 days as an opportunity to ‘get out of the capital’. The time and effort required for such an activity demands more than the usual 2 days, so we dwell within the confines of the M25 for the majority of the year: knowing that no matter how tranquil the al fresco courtyard, or serene the rooftop terrace, you’re hard-pressed to find anywhere that feels like a genuine ‘escape’ that’s inner-city London. And so, an invite to an address where I clocked ‘Surrey’ on the last line, not least one where I could take a half-hour direct train from Victoria, sounded like the dream London escape on a Sunday afternoon.
Blessed with baking-hot sunshine on the day of our visit, the views from The Petersham Hotel’s flagship restaurant aren’t done justice with photographs. The expansive windows are such that the snake of the Thames and the lush roll of the grounds can be seen from every table, and the light-filled room is made even brighter by a wall of glittering mirrored panels, brilliant white tablecloths and polished silverware. We can also see the famous Petersham cows in the distance from our table: the arrival of which is celebrated by the Richmond locals. When the cows start grazing, this means that summer is on the approach.
Once we’ve gotten over the excitement that such an expanse of greenery has been reached using just our Oyster cards (packed Royal Parks don’t count), we turn our attention to the food. Our Sunday visit means it’s a tempting menu of roasted meats, plus a selection of refined fish and vegetarian dishes on offer.
We start with a meat-packed ham hock terrine, glisteningly fresh and slathered with a punchy fruit chutney, served with dressed leaves and sourdough.
Next came a rainbow of orange, green and red-hued heritage tomatoes, the sweet, firm fruits used to scoop up delicate little blobs of creamy goat’s curd.
Both mains were a heady highlight: gorgeously rare, 28-day-aged beef sirloin with a rich jus and a light, crispy pillow of Yorkshire pudding (the size of which meant it probably could have been used as a small pillow to boot). Perfectly roasted, tender accompanying vegetables included carrots, parsnips and greens, and of course, crispy-outer fluffy-inner potatoes.
Next, Dorset leg of lamb that could be pulled apart with a fork, sat atop a mini Everest of cauliflower cheese, smooth parsnip purée, spinach and long-stemmed broccoli. Both plates washed down with big, palm-filling glasses of Bordeaux.
We’re advised the banana cake is not to be missed by our waiter, and a truer statement there never was. Rich, decadent and gooey, this signature creation mixed chocolate, fruit and caramel in the dreamiest of ways, with the rich cake offset by a cleansing, lip-smacking passion fruit sorbet.
A gooey-middled chocolate fondant served with honeycomb, salted caramel and ice cream was another dessert-lover’s dream: the sort of bitter-rich-sweet that assures you you’ve been satisfied, and that you definitely won’t be able to eat the little truffle petits fours served with coffee (even though you want to).
And so we head out into the May sunshine, feeling not just nourished from lunch, but having discovered that elusive satisfaction of ‘getting away from it’ for a while. Will I be back? Faster than you can say ‘fresh air’.
The Petersham Hotel
Nightingale Lane, Richmond, TW10 6UZ