144 - More than just a number
The Richmond Hill Hotel has recently had a massive refurbishment, and as well as upgrading the bedrooms and other amenities has remodelled its food and drinks facilities. The hotel interior is dramatically different – and far better than before. It has a relaxed, contemporary feel and a plethora of design details influenced by famous poets, writers, and artists associated with the area. In line with many hotels currently, the atmosphere is relaxed and somewhere to enjoy refreshments all day. I was worried that the dreadful fire recently at the spa that adjoins it to the hotel next door might have affected the restaurant, but thankfully it is fine and luckily nobody was hurt in the fire.
I met a friend there for lunch recently, and although I arrived embarrassingly late, the restaurant and bar was very quiet for a weekday lunchtime. The restaurant is behind the central bar feature, is light and airy but of course, lacks a view of the river. I was surprised that there is no set menu available – particularly at lunchtimes – as this, to me anyway, is a given for a hotel in a rather remote location with lots of local competition. There is, however, a 144 Specials menu with prices similar to the a la carte. And that said, prices aren’t particularly high: starters £6-9; mains averaging around £14-15 and desserts £6-9. There are 13 wines available by the glass and bottles are from £21.
We started with Brixham Scallops with chorizo, leeks and crispy seaweed dust (from the specials) and Burrata with baby spinach, horseradish and cured heritage beetroot. My companion’s scallops were attractively served - in scallop shells. He felt they were slightly over salted but otherwise proclaimed good. My burrata was lovely and the cured beetroot accompaniment particularly good, and beautifully balanced.
Our mains were chosen from the specials menu: Seabass, samphire, crispy royal kombu, tomato beurre blanc for my companion and for me the vegan Pea and Asparagus salad (quinoa, sea kale, chilli, peas, asparagus, mint, lemon & poppy seed dressing) with which I opted for the grilled salmon addition (chicken or goat’s cheese also available). The seabass was declared excellent, with the fish cooked to perfection, with crispy skin and a generous portion of samphire - again perfect and not at all stringy. Other than the beurre blanc (felt to be a little lacking in flavour) altogether a good dish. My salad was prettily presented. There was plenty of asparagus (white and green, and cooked al dente) and a good piece of salmon, again cooked perfectly, but there was a lack of seasoning.
I wasn’t really aware of mint in my salad and my salmon would have benefitted from a good squeeze of fresh lemon. The dish rather lacked ‘oomph’, which was a great shame as it was otherwise very good and most acceptable.
Our desserts were Bakewell Tart (made with blueberry jam) and served with clotted cream, and Valrhona Chocolate Mousse with honeycomb crunch. The tart was judged to be very tasty and blueberry a nice alternative jam, but rather light on the filling and jam in comparison to the thickness of the pastry base. My chocolate mousse was beautifully presented, with fresh flower decoration. It was fabulous but very rich and deliciously chocolatey... so much so that I was embarrassed not to be able to do it justice.
A couple of glasses of Nederburg The Manor Sauvignon Blanc went down a treat with our meal and I was pleased to see prices for wines by the glass not being out of kilter with the bottle price. So, if you do decide to relax a bit more and have a few extra glasses you won’t feel cheated by not having ordered a bottle in the first place!
The revamped Richmond Hill Hotel is a great success. The restaurant no doubt has a good deal more atmosphere in the evenings, and its ‘Turf to Table’ inspired menu, changing seasonally and serving a range of dishes ranging from vegan to classic British, looks set to be a great addition to Richmond Hill.