I had been looking forward to trying the restaurant within the beautiful Petersham Hotel in Richmond for several months, having first been invited to review almost a year ago. Don’t ask me why it took me so long, now I’ve finally visited, I’m keen to go again and try the rest of the menu!
I expected the food to be excellent, as a friend of mine visited some weeks before me and we are often in agreement when it comes to good food – she gave it a huge thumbs up. And I expected top quality ingredients too, given the price tags – this isn’t a cheap restaurant (though the set menu looks to stonking good value).
What I didn’t expect was for the cooking to be so inventive, with some very unexpected combinations of ingredients that worked brilliantly well.
The first thing to note about the restaurant are the stunning views from large-pane almost-full-height windows running the length of the restaurant, overlooking Petersham Meadows, the River Thames and the hotel’s grounds directly below.
Boats putt-putt leisurely around the bends of the river (not that one can hear them from this peaceful spot), cyclists speed along the cycle path, and slow-moving walkers amble along too.
We ordered from the a la carte menu which is pricy, but there is also a set menu offering a choice from 3 starters, 3 mains and 2 puddings that costs just £22.95 for two courses or £26.95 for three. Next time we visit, I plan to try the set, as the dishes listed sounded pretty good too.
A note on the bread because it was particularly good – a soft, mild brown sourdough and a fabulous rosemary white bread with a perfect crunchy crust. It came with a patty of what I think is cultured butter, thankfully soft and spreadable at room temperature, always a positive detail to get right.
Pete ordered the Sauteed scallops, banana plantain, black pudding, parsnip puree (£16). Three plump fresh scallops on soft discs of plantain were served with a crispy-surfaced chunk of blackpudding, blobs of parsnip puree and a scattering of parnsip crisps, a perfect balance of textures and sweet savoury flavours. There was also an intriguing salty and succulent green leaf that we failed to ask about – I think it might be ice plant but I’m not certain.
My Roast lamb sweetbreads, morel mushrooms, peas, roasted almonds, romanesco (£15) was a stunner of a dish. Visually, it looked like a work of art, but more importantly, it tasted even better. The sweetbreads (of which the portion is generous) were perfectly cooked; lovely and soft. They were balanced with meaty morel mushrooms, little floret tips of romanesco, a scattering of peas and micro herbs for garnish. Underneath was hidden a pool of carrot puree, which added a lovely sweetness, and the plate was finished with a light savoury sauce.
The Fillet of Brechin beef, wild board tortelloni, artichokes, potato Anna, Cipollini onions (£35) that Pete chose was also excellent. A generous hunk of steak with superb flavour – far better than the insipid fillets that are common place – was cooked a perfect medium rare as requested. The wild boar tortellini – which we thought might be dry given how it was served without sauce – was actually soft, moist and packed with porky meatiness. And the huge slice of potato Anna, wilted spinach and Cipollini onions were all top notch too. The plate was garnished with some black mushrooms and carrot puree for colour and sweetness. A light but rich gravy worked well too. Brechin, by the way, is a type of Angus cattle bred for beef up in Scotland and, judging by this dish, the quality justifies the price.
Unusually for me, I chose fish over meat with the Pan fried Cornish John Dory, pea puree, caramelized endive, shrimp curry and raisin vinaigrette (£28). I was blown away by this dish, not just visually – though look, it’s pretty wow, right? – but also the unexpected success of teeny weeny curried shrimps, sweet juicy cooked raisins and pine nuts, sweet sour cherry tomatoes, more black mushrooms, soft wilted spinach and a caramelised endive that I think must have been cooked in the same liquid as the raisins and pine nuts. That endive, oh my god, I can’t even begin to tell you how it turned my entire perception of endives around! The fish was decent, though oddly, the brilliance of the garnishes relegated it to a mere backdrop – a competent protein that let the other ingredients shine. Fantastic plate of food that really confounded my expectations!
(I’m seriously contemplating writing to ask if head chef Adebola Adeshina might give me a cookery lesson on how to replicate that amazing endive!)
After the generous and delicious starters and mains, we didn’t really need dessert, but the success of the preceding dishes had us keen to see whether the kitchen could live up to them when it came to sweets.
My Valrhona chocolate mousse, caramel honeycomb, raspberry sorbet (£8) certainly hit the spot, a solid chocolate pot filled with rich, sticky and intense chocolate mousse studded with chewy-like-toffee honeycomb and gloopy raspberry sauce. On the plate, a scoop of smashing raspberry sorbet and three fresh ones that proved how fresh the sorbet tasted. The milk chocolate decoration was superfluous but fine, however the only negative note was the woefully soggy and bland biscuit lid of the pot – it would have been better to stick with a solid chocolate lid than serve this disc of black cardboard. There was a small teaspoon of thick caramel sauce smeared decoratively on the plate – a touch more of this would have been welcome, it had a welcome edge of saltiness that was beautiful with the rest.
The winning dessert was Pete’s White peach soufflé, orange compote, kiwi sorbet (£8), the soufflé utterly capturing the summer delight of sweet ripe peaches. We all know that soufflés can be tricky, not only in terms of that trademark rise but also achieving a rich enough flavour in the batter, but this one definitely delivered on both counts. Alongside, a sweet tart kiwi sorbet and some slightly ungainly chunks of caramelised orange, both of which worked well with the soufflé star.
The last morsels we enjoyed were just as good as the rest – perfect salted caramel truffles served with coffee and tea – rich, soft caramel inside shells that made a satisfying crack as we bit into them.
I’m surprised the staff didn’t need to roll me back out to the car – there’s plenty of parking for those coming by road by the way. I’m still somewhat regretting that we didn’t travel by public transport – the 20 minute walk back to the station would have done me the world of good after such an indulgent lunch!
Kavey Eats dined as guests of The Petersham Hotel Restaurant.