Tea with a View
Anyone living in Arcadian Twickers or Richmond knows that one of the best views from any local restaurant is at The Petersham Hotel on Richmond Hill. The hotel looks out across Petersham Meadows to the bend in the Thames and (on a clear day) over to Kingston and Twickenham. An Act of Parliament, passed in 1902 to safeguard the famous view, protects the meadows from development. This Act was renewed in 2002 for a further 1000 years, so anyone reading this needn’t worry too much about it being rescinded!
The hotel appointed a new head chef at the end of last year, which prompted me to go recently to check out the afternoon tea menu. The chef, Jean-Didier Gouges is Mauritian by birth, has an exemplary cv and was appointed private chef to the Mauritian president at the age of just 18! He seems set to make his mark on the Richmond foodie scene.
The hotel restaurant offers an excellent value set lunch, so it is always a difficult decision to choose between that and afternoon tea. Personally, I think lunch is probably better value, but there are occasions when one wants to indulge in the relaxed sophistication of a ‘proper’ afternoon tea, and this place definitely fits the bill... and more.
We started with an assortment of elegant finger sandwiches (no crusts of course). In reverse order of my personal enjoyment, they were: classic cucumber (which needed a touch more seasoning); egg and cress mayonnaise (okay, but the bread-to-filling ratio wasn’t brilliant, and I’m not keen on white bread); Scottish smoked salmon, cream cheese and chives (now you’re talking) and last, but by no means least, a delicious ham and Dijon mustard on dark rye bread.
Then came scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve. The scones were light as a feather, and of course, we had the usual discussion about whether one should put the jam or the cream on first (for me it is the jam). But the highlight of the tea was the fabulous assortment of tiny, delectable, bite-sized pastries. These ranged from a mini sponge cake, a divine éclair with lemon filling, a square of chocolate indulgence that was a kind of ‘Rocky Road meets uncooked chocolate cake’, a traditional fruitcake and - the ‘pièce de résistance’- a lemon curd tartlet.
Tea was served with a pot of Sapphire Earl Grey – my choice, but there were eight other teas to choose from – and of course the option of a glass of house champagne. I will leave you to wonder if I had that!
Jean-Didier is a very skilled pastry chef and chocolatier and it shows with the wonderful cakes. The Petersham is soon to be serving (get it?)
a special Wimbledon Afternoon Tea, which has a Pimm’s Jelly and the ubiquitous strawberries featuring in the pastries.
Monday-Friday it is £27.50 for afternoon tea and at weekends it’s £29.50.
A glass of house ‘Champers’ is a further £12.75