Afternoon tea is a great way of entertaining (clients, friends) for cheaper than a dinner or lunch – plus there’s less pressure to drink alcohol, if you’re cutting down for any reason. So I went along to The Bingham in Richmond, Surrey (way out in south-west London) to try it out. Slight problem: I don’t eat bread, sugar or caffeine (contained in tea). So I took my Dad to scoff all the scones and cakes – and to slurp the Lapsang Souchong, and report back.
So this review is a joint effort, and a family affair. The Bingham restaurant with rooms is a Grade II listed Georgian boutique hotel, done up in all the latest soothing grey-beiges with huge, circular glass teardrop chandeliers etc. Basically I loved the look and the ambiance of it. On a coldish Monday afternoon there were a scattering of women, some mother/daughter couples, a business meeting and a trendy group of creative types all jostling in the tasteful surroundings to get their carb/chocolate fix (this was the tail end of National Chocolate Week, so there was a theme).
Dad had the Chocolate Afternoon Tea (£25) which included 4 types of finger sandwiches (2 fingers each). He pronounced the Organic Smoked Salmon “like smoked salmon” and “tangy”, the ham and mustard “just the right amount of mustard”, the egg and cress “delicately flavoured” and the cucumber and soft cheese (was it soft cheese?) “refreshing”. It’s at this point I should point out that he is a writer, (Brian Lockett, find him at www.openwriting.com) so should be better at these descriptions. He protested, “What do you expect me to say? The food was nicely served (he didn’t throw it at me), the plates appear to be clean and not cracked…” Oh dear, this is the last time I take him on a review.
He had the Jing Earl Grey tea (he thought Jing was a region in China but it’s actually the name of the company that supplies the teas). It had a “nice, smokey flavour” and they brought him lemon. I opted for chamomile, which was also in a lovely glass teapot and deliciously smooth, without that harsh, musty, dusty backnote some chamomile teas have.
The head chef Shay Cooper surpassed himself with me (if indeed it was he in the kitchen at this time). I got a selection of hors d’heuvres: parma ham and balsamic onions; herring, potato and thinly sliced radish; green olives; a curled marinated anchovy, green beans and grape; a smoked salmon and cream cheese pinwheel; plus a goats cheese, chorizo and caperberry canape. All really wonderful and I didn’t feel left out of deprived in any way, rather the opposite.
I thought I’d finished but was then brought a plate of 5 cheeses with gluten-free toast; a little bowl of pineapple, pomegranate and passionfruit (my favourite fruit); and a layered raspberry compote/whipped cream thing in a shot glass, sweetened with a little honey – MMM!
Dad moved smoothly on to the plain and fruit scones with homemade preserve (strawberry) and clotted Devon cream – “excellent” and the chocolate cakes. There was a bitter chocolate gateau, a fresh mint and chocolate macaroon, a choc fudge doughnut (“slightly harder than expected – had it been in the fridge?”), a white chocolate and raspberry meringue, plus an Amadei chocolate tart. He is a lightweight so the doughnut was the only one he could manage. I thought the rest looked awesome and everyone else was tucking in.
Afternoon Tea is a speciality at the Bingham, demonstrated by the fact it was awarded the Tea Council Award for Excellence in 2011. If you are in the area, get over there! It’s on the river Thames with a lovely bit of river frontage, several terraces and balconies etc, so you can eat al fresco in the warmer months.
The Bingham, 61–63 Petersham Road, Richmond Upon Thames, Surrey, TW10 6UT.
Reservations 020 8940 0902
Reviewed in 2012