Getaways - Historic Richmond HillBy Sarah Dave
March 25, 2009
It may be only 30 minutes from Reading, but Sarah Dave discovered to her delight Richmond is like another world
One day I shall buy a property on Richmond Hill. I shall gaze out of the period windows of my terraced house on to the commanding views of Petersham Meadows and the River Thames curving below.
But until that heady time of permanent residence I shall have to make frequent visits to this Surrey delight.
Thankfully it’s only about a half hour train ride from Reading which is made easy with a direct route on South West Trains. The station is also happily in the middle of the town.
The town is stylish and historic and – when the weather’s fine – a passenger boat ride is a must. Or sit on the banks sipping a Pimms and watch vessels going through the locks at Richmond and Teddington.
Arty folk, rugby fanatics (Twickenham’s a stone’s throw) and history buffs are well catered for.
The Museum of Rugby and Twickenham Stadium Tours (call 0870 405 2001 for prices) is where you can find the world’s largest collection of rugby memorabilia – but beware it is closed on Mondays and match days.
Discover the past at the Museum of Richmond www.museumofrichmond.com at the Old Town Hall in Whitaker Avenue. Delve into displays revealing pre-historic to present day Richmond, Ham, Petersham and Kew. The Riverside Gallery is housed in the same building, a small exhibition space featuring local artists. Admission is free to both venues.
Another idea is to take in a show at Richmond Theatre www.richmondtheatre.net. Shows this year include Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Tosca, Brief Encounter and Fascinating Aïda.
Seeking refreshment – both liquid and retail – is no problem here as high street names mingle with many chic bars and boutiques with more over Richmond Bridge.
I could not contain my excitement to discover tiny little original shops nestled down cobbled lanes coming off Richmond Green and along Hill Rise including gelateria, cafés and chocolatiers.
Spurn the usual chain eateries, of which there are plenty, for a stylish bistro or pizza place – Pizza al Rollo in Hill Rise does rustic pizzas by the yard. Or why not raise a tankard in a traditional pub grub hub dotted around the town?
Richmond is a really charming place near enough to Reading for a daytrip or weekend indulgence.
It has hotels and B&Bs to suit any pocket but if you’re able to splash out a little bit more The Petersham Hotel and Restaurant is really exceptional.
A memorable stay is not just about fine furnishings, smiling staff and comfortable surroundings, it is the little touches to delight the guest, to go the extra mile, and The Petersham has it in spades.
The hotel was built in 1865 and is privately owned by the Dare family. Its location is idyllic – high on Richmond Hill with uninterrupted views of the Thames and surrounding meadows.
Inside are traditional touches including the longest unsupported stone staircase in England.
Courteous staff offered us two complimentary half bottles of Champagne which, as instructed, arrived on time to our balconied, river-facing room later that evening, accompanied by the most delicious homemade chocolate fudge.
But perhaps the greatest revelation was its restaurant.
Hotel restaurants can be hit-and-miss but The Petersham’s is a triumphant offering that can hold its own evidenced by the locals that seem to eat here too.
We took lunch (£32.50 for their seasonal three-course lunch). My guest had red mullet and squid with lemon couscous and sweet fennel in a coconut bouillon while I enjoyed grilled quail and chorizo with fried black truffle risotto.
For main I was tempted by baked seabass and crab ravioli with pumpkin risotto and a sage and shallot beurre noisette while my guest tucked into some roast Norfolk turkey with traditional accompaniments.
It was all delicious but I was in real paroxysms of delight when my desert of poached pear in butterscotch sauce with a hazelnut crunch arrived – a magnificent pear encased in filo pastry which when cut oozed a sort of marzipan lava. Two small orbs of ice cream rested beside it, both cushioning sceptres of spun sugar.
If that wasn’t all, while we were eating our lunch, gasps of delight ensued as it magically started to snow outside as I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas played on the restaurant’s muzak system – another magic touch from the Petersham fairies.
Fine wines and aperitifs of Champagne ensured a dozy afternoon in our cosy room before we ventured out to sample the town’s night-time delights (about a £5 taxi trip).
The next morning we left with heavy hearts for the railway station, planning our next visit.
- Sarah travelled to Richmond on South West Trains. Two trains an hour link Reading to Richmond. Fares from January 2 include GroupSave which means four people travel for the price of two (using super off-peak day return, travelling after 11am Monday to Friday or anytime at weekend which means four travel for just £27).
Other prices are off-peak return £16.50 and Super off-peak day return £13.50.
SWT is offering FIVE lucky Evening Post readers a Reading to Richmond return ticket.
Just write in with your name, address and contact phone number to: Richmond/SWT competition, c/o Sarah Dave, Reading Evening Post, 8 Tessa Road, Reading, RG1 8NS, by Tuesday, March 31.
Usual Surrey and Berkshire Newspaper Rules apply. For more information visit www.southwesttrains.co.uk
- Sarah stayed at The Petersham Hotel, Nightingale Lane, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 6UZ. Tel: 020 8940 7471 or visit www.petershamhotel.co.uk.
Rooms are from £95-£300 per room per night. A two-course lunch is £18.50 and dinner around £35. Sunday lunch is £31.50.
- For more information on the area go to www.visitrichmond.co.uk