"Simples, Alexsandr?" In the new Shangri-La Hotel's ground floor foyer, our reservations are checked on two bit...
Sunday, 14 July 2013
The Bingham, Richmond
We are having what passes, in the rest of Europe, as 'a normal summer'. As 30º+ day follows 30º+ day, how package holiday oiks' haemmorhoid-red hungover faces must rage as they contemplate The Sun in not-so-sunny Santa Maria di Horrea: "I told you we shouldav stuck wiv effin' Pontins in Prestatyn, Leigh-Anne." But for all London's upmarket spots' fancy air-con systems, the Lovin' Spoonful's line - 'cool town, evening in the city; dressing so fine and looking pretty' doesn't resonate with me when a Summer in the City evening involves the furnace that is the Tube and conditions that would not be tolerated by the EU were the Central Line conveying swines to slaughter not peeps to St. Paul's. Endure the District Line travelling in the opposite direction, however, and in 30 minutes, you're in bucolic Richmond. All breathable air and languid lawns, here's a world away from sweltering West End streets. Richmond is the sort of gilded time-warp town where you might reasonably expect to bump into 70s TV fixture Margo Leadbetter, looking pristine in Aquascutum, terrorising slovenly boutique assistants, and drinking G and Ts with a bridge club crony. Margo and her ilk, present-day stockbrokers' wives and ladies who lunch, will love The Bingham. Removed from the perma-thronged, rumbustious, riverfront bars of central Richmond, this elegant, genteel Georgian hotel made over in Homes and Garden designery moderne epitomises The Good Life, Home Counties-style. Who wouldn't dig a glorious English walled garden and high-ceilinged handsome lounge bar? A summer breeze wafts in through French windows overlooking chocolate box-perfection - a sun-dappled stretch of the Thames whose coots and moorhens are only occasionally disturbed by bronzed Oxbridge Aryan brawn propelling fast-moving rowing boats. We're offered cooling Singapore slings, elegant Bellinis, fig martini, pisco sour, negroni, summer punch and the sort of food bowls you get at the sort of wedding receptions, the Bingham's stock-in-trade, Hugh Grant's screen character Charles was perpetually late for. I'd forgotten about the place, but The Bingham's lawn beats any crowded London bier-garten, hands down. My previous visit, for dinner, some 7 years ago, is a total blur until the Bingham's owner reminds me my date, restaurant reviewer Marina O'Loughlin, described the place as "all fur coat and no knickers." Ooops! 'Hashtag (slightly) awkward', as they say. Not that Margo would have any truck with a spiky wee Glaswegian wifey abroad.
61 - 53 Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey 8940 0902 http://www.thebingham.co.uk