While Alfie and I waited to meet my friend at Richmond station I popped into Blacks Outdoor Wear to pick up a fleece for my daughter’s imminent ski trip. I was holding Alfie but the kind manager explained that I was welcome to put him down on the floor as dogs were very welcome – and that they had even had a husky visit them yesterday.
Two other sales assistants made a big fuss of Alfie while I made my purchase. Then we returned to the station. Whilst the day had started sunny and mild, it threatened to rain so we sat outside Costa Coffee (there is a partial roof to protect you from the elements) to discuss our plans over cappuccinos. We struck up a conversation here with a couple who were accompanied by Poppy, a rather lovely West Highland Terrier.
Now, we could have walked through the Saturday crowds in Richmond town centre and then up Richmond Hill but we thought we’d save our walking energies for the park. So we jumped on a 371 bus for the 10 minute journey to The American University, which is also the location of the Lass of Richmond Hill pub.
I explained to my friend about the history of the Star and Garter Hospital for Disabled Servicemen and also how, when I was once in Virginia, I was struck by how the view from the top of Richmond Hill here is the reason why Richmond in the USA is so named – the James River runs exactly the same as The Thames!
We walked through Richmond Gate into Richmond Park and looked at the signs. It’s a little tricky to cross the road here but we navigated our way towards the Petersham path. We strolled along, nodding to the other dog walkers and dodging the numerous joggers and cyclists. We didn’t spot any deer. We stopped on an ironwork seat bearing lines from Thomson’s poem “The seasons” and admired the view.
Sadly, the signs at Pembroke Lodge indicate that only guide dogs are allowed. This is a shame as the gardens are quite lovely – and there is also Poet’s Corner and a solar-powered interactive musical bench to celebrate the life of rock musician Ian Drury (you plug in a set of headphones and hear eight of his songs, as well as an interview).
We continued our walk along the path until we arrived at the information point. There are loos here and a café and numerous groups were using it as a meeting point. We had a bit of a struggle here – we wanted to get to Petersham Gate but were not able to go through the Pembroke grounds to get there.
Anyway, I bought a little book called “Guide to Richmond Park” here for £9.99 which I shall use for planning other walks around the park which extends to Wimbledon, Roehampton and Kingston. We walked on past the information point until we reached the end of the fences and took a right down some gentle open steps.
The ground here is open and sweeps majestically down and away – some of those West London bright green parakeets were squawking in the trees. The view is great and we wondered what the red church-like building in the distance was – and even asked another dog owner. At the end of the path is a large playground but we had our target in view and walked out of Petersham Gate.
Now I discovered this delightful pub last year http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/clubs_bars/review-7948.php and had vowed to return and a dog owner friend of mine had told me that it was a really dog friendly pub. As we walked to the imposing front door this was confirmed – on one side was a water bowl and on the other a box of towels with an invitation to “Wipe muddy paws”.
The place was really busy (you are advised to book for weekend lunchtimes – they try to keep dogs in the main restaurant area on the right as the lounge area on the left has a large wood burning stove) but they managed to find us one of their scrubbed pine tables.
There were two huge dogs sleeping near the bar (apparently some local dog walkers come in every day with their chocolate Labrador and an assortment of their walking companions) and at every table there were well behaved children and babies. Dog/family paradise! My friend was as impressed with the décor as I had been when I first visited – leaded windows, huge iron chandeliers, deer paintings – it’s like being in a modern castle.
This is not standard pub food. The chef is Kenneth Culhane (Roux Scholar 2010), they pride themselves on using local produce and even have their own cycling forager. My friend selected the set menu (two courses £16.95) and chose the South Coast Grey mullet fillet, herbed crushed potato salad, cavolo nero with almond, caper, lemon and brown butter sauce. And I choose Colworth venison loin and haunch, Puy lentils, orange endive, crisp celeriac and potato with juniper jus (£23.50). We also requested a side of mustard mash and French beans with almonds. While we waited, we tucked into fresh soda bread and herb butter and started to drink a carafe of Inzolia Sicilian white wine.
Alfie was so exhausted by his walk that he had gone straight to sleep snuggled up in my coat and scarf on one of the chairs. I felt guilty as he hadn’t eaten since breakfast at 9am and it was now nearing 3pm. So when my meal arrived I picked off a number of small pieces of venison which I gave to him once we had finished eating (he is a very well behaved dog and doesn’t hustle for food). I have to say that the food was exquisitely presented and tasted even better than it looked – and I was really quite sad that I had to feed some of that venison to Alfie.
The staff were marvellous – attentive to our needs while we ate, and always managing a sneaky stroke of Alfie when they passed. They even told us that the building we had spied was the former All Saints Church in Bute Avenue (subsequent research revealed that Knight Frank had marketed the property for a cool £12m!) that was now hired out as a private house to celebrities – and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones had stayed there and visited The Dysart whilst doing so!
We were so relaxed and happy that we choose some desserts – my friend opted for three scoops of ice cream (Amaretti biscuit, prune and Armagnac and orange and cardamom) while I chose the baked to order Madeleine cake (10 minutes cooking time) with miso salted caramel, caramelised pear and sorbet. The cake was sublime but I have to say that the miso salted caramel defies description as it was more than wonderful.
Anyway, we reluctantly left and made our way home – my friend on the 65 bus to Kingston and me and Alfie on the 371 to Richmond. What a perfect way to spend a Saturday.