"Traditional Afternoon Tea with a Christmas twist..."Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
A 30 minute stroll from Richmond station along the river bank (to avoid the rugby crowds and Saturday shoppers) was calming even though the air was frosty. As we grew closer to Petersham, the hotel stood out on the hill like a beacon of understated good taste.
Walking up the hill and across the car park, we admired the fantastic view down across the green field to the bend on the Thames after which Richmond in Virginia is named. The concierge opened the door with a smile and I stood dumbstruck at the magnificent Christmas tree dominating the hall. There were twinkling lights entwined around seasonal greenery rising up the open stairwell behind. It looked a little bit like a smaller version of The Grand Hotel in Brighton. There were even bunches of mistletoe curled around the base of the wall lamps. Our coats were taken and we were gently ushered into the dining room where a separate area held numerous families, groups and couples enjoying the festive tea.
While we admired, from our elevated position, the stunning panoramic view of the river from large windows – we were seated at low tables covered with snow white table cloths. The edges of the windows and the ceiling had more of those tiny lights in evergreen fronds and there was a tasteful illuminated reindeer just outside. But he did not obscure the dramatic sky as sunset sent yellow, blue and grey lights across the heavens. I sipped on a glass of champagne and felt the hectic week disappear and Christmas come into full view.
The waiter described the teas on offer – the only thing we had to choose. As well as our Earl Grey we were persuaded to try the Christmas blend (Assam with cinnamon and fruit). Whilst I don’t usually enjoy these types of tea, this was truly delicious. Christmas in a cup. Although be warned that the second cup was a little too strong in flavour.
Then a huge three tier cake carrier was placed in front of us – and it was decorated with ribbons and a tiny bell. There were so many things on there we hardly knew where to start. The traditional cucumber sandwiches (no crusts, finger sized) were perfect and we were both rather taken with the Scottish smoked salmon, cream cheese and dill and the wonderful smoked applewood cheese with apple cider chutney sandwiches although the turkey and cranberry sauce was a little bland.
Then we tackled the mountain (there were six for the two of us!) lemon and cranberry scones which were presented with a generous pot of West Country clotted cream and individual jars of Wilkins and Smith strawberry jam. The scones were crispy on the outside and smooth inside and light, light, light in texture.
Then came the cakes. A star shaped linzer biscuit, gingerbread macaroons with some creamy confection, traditional rich fruit cake slice and a yule log dark chocolate roulade which was both rich and bitter. Ignoring the calorie count, which must have gone off the scale, we sampled these delights and were only disappointed that the promised Stollen cake (we both adore marzipan) appeared to have been stolen!
When I popped to the loo I was again struck by the stunning interior – as a result I was sorely tempted to ask about staying in the hotel. If the toilets were this beautiful, the rooms must be amazing. And I had to tear myself away from the “wall of fame” photos of the numerous celebrities whose photos were there.
We really ate far more than we should have done. But if you can’t indulge at Christmas, when can you? The atmosphere, the magnificent view and the wonderful tea ensured that we were well and truly in the Christmas spirit by the time we left. What a marvellous treat!
Festive tea costs £25 a head and there is a £12.50 supplement if you want a glass of champagne. It’s available until Sunday 6th January. Whilst I initially thought that it was a little expensive for tea, I reflected that some folk regularly spend £10 grabbing a hasty coffee and cake at one of the numerous chains. To spend a couple of hours in such a beautiful location, with attentive staff and a feast of festive fancies – we both thought it was well worth it. I’m now seeking someone else to spoil so I can enjoy the experience all over again.
KimT reviewed The Petersham Restaurant on Mon 03 Dec 2012