The Bingham is a boutique hotel with an attractive view over the Thames. If coming by car, parking is awkward, but the nearby Poppy Factory appears to allow visitors in the evening. The dining room has a wide outlook over the Thames, and on a nice evening (as this was) you can sit on the terrace. The only drawback to this is the uncomfortable outside chairs. The tasting menu was £65 (£105 with wine pairing). If you stick to the a la carte then three courses would have set you back £45.
The wine list had some good growers but has mark-ups that would shame an establishment in Mayfair. Drouhin Pinot Noir 2007 was listed at £69 for a wine that costs £19 to buy, Lagrange 2003 was a hefty £115 compared to a retail price of £29, while the excellent and now somewhat rare Mas de Daumas Gassac 1990 was an outrageous £260 for a wine that can be found for £48. At the upper end of the list, Margaux 1989 was £960 (+VAT of course) for a wine that can be bought for £276. We drank Bonny Doon Cigare Blanc 2007 for £53 – a wine you can buy for £15 in the shops. Restaurants have to make a profit, but these mark-ups are simply too high, in my view.
Bread is made from scratch and is a choice of slices of white bread, olive foccacia or multi-grain. My favourite of these was the focaccia, but in all cases the texture was enjoyable (5/10). A nibble of ceviche of sea bass was served with a tomato jelly and a little cucumber. This was a refreshing dish (5/10). The first course proper was cauliflower risotto with lobster jelly, tarragon and a cauliflower and lobster dressing. This dish worked very well, the risotto having creamy texture, the lobster jelly a interesting and successful contrast to the texture of the rice, and little crisp bits of cauliflower providing a pleasing additional textural layer (6/10).
Organic salmon was served with a basil and courgette relish, shredded squid and squid ink vinaigrette. This was a pretty dish, the squid in no way rubbery, the basil and courgette relish having good taste, which was just as well as the salmon itself was properly cooked but had limited taste, while the squid ink vinaigrette added some colour; I liked the unannounced addition of crispy ginger (5/10).
Roast quail was served with a summer vegetable salad. The quail was correctly cooked though some more seasoning was in order, while the vegetables were seasonal: asparagus, courgette, properly podded broad beans. All fine, yet the vegetables had little real taste. Admittedly it is hard to get really good vegetables in the UK, but these were unexciting (4/10). Squab pigeon was offered with maize shoots, Scottish girolles and truffle sauce. The pigeon was cooked pink and the girolles were pleasant, but the dish was unexciting; again I found the seasoning too subdued (4/10).
The cheese board was supplied by the nearby Teddington cheese shop, and was in pretty good condition. An aged Comte had quite good taste, though a Morbiere was a little past its prime, and Epoisses had crossed over into that stage which has moved beyond merely ripe (5/10). Coconut rice pudding had a base of pineapple carpaccio, a citrus salad and a good mango ice cream (4/10). Amedei chocolate tart had good quality chocolate, decent pastry and passion fruit sorbet alongside orange Chantilly (5/10). Service was friendly, though a little threadbare in places. The bill came to a chunky £116 a head, which with no pre-dinner drinks or dessert wine, a mid-range wine and coffee seems a lot of money for what was delivered. Generally presentation was good, but I think ingredients could be improved on significantly and seasoning could be dialled up a notch. There were no real errors, but I left staring at the bill and was far from sure this represented good value for money.
Below are notes from a meal in August 2008.
The Bingham is a smart boutique hotel in Richmond which had a major makeover in February 2008. It has a lovely view over the river, with an attractive terrace garden. On this warm August evening we were able to dine on the balcony overlooking the river. The menu is British, with half a dozen choice for each course. Starters range from £7.50 to £12, mains £14 - £23, desserts £6 to £8. There is also a set lunch at £23 for three courses.
The wine list spans the world and has some well chosen growers. The excellent Bonny Doon Pacific Rim Riesling 2005 is listed at £28 for a wine that retails at around £8, Felton Road Chardonnay 2005 is £52 for a wine that costs around £14 in the shops, and Trimbach Cuvee Frederich Emile 2003 is £55 for a wine that will cost you over £20 retail. There are four dessert wines by the glass, but be aware that these are a mere 70 ml in size.
Bread is made from scratch in the kitchen, slices of white and brown. These had good taste and I particularly liked the white bread, which had good texture; perhaps a touch more salt would have improved it further (5/10). An amuse bouche of Jerusalem artichoke and lemon balm soup had good flavour but was tepid by the time it was served at the table. Potato chips could have been crisper, and Parmesan goujeres suffered from not rising sufficiently, consequently being rather heavy in texture, and not having enough cheese added to the base; they were also lukewarm when they arrived (3/10).
A starter of scallops lifted the level of the meal, the scallops being very carefully cooked, just on the edge of undercooking (which I much prefer to the alternative) prettily presented with pickled cherries, smoked duck and a peanut butter veloute that I was rather worried about as a concept but was fortunately almost invisible (5/10). I'm not sure that the duck really added anything to the dish; the scallops were good enough to speak for themselves.
A salad of artichokes was again attractively laid out, with artichoke hearts, pickled garlic, mixed leaves, artichoke crisps, duxelle of artichoke and a cep marmalade, with a nicely made truffle hollandaise (5/10). A garlic risotto worked well, the rice having absorbed the stock well, topped with wild sorrel, trompette mushrooms, garlic chips and Parmesan veloute.
Slow cooked suckling pig was another successful dish, the pork belly a fraction dry but the pork otherwise nicely cooked, the crackling superb, on a bed of hispi cabbage with roast shallots and pommery mustard; seasoning was also good. The salt cod brandade on the side seemed a flavour too many to me, and I’d have been tempted to increase the amount of cabbage and jus relative to the generous amount of protein, but nonetheless this was proper cooking (6/10).
Cheeses are supplied from the Teddington Cheese Shop, and are mostly British. Golden Cross cheddar was powerful, Ticklemore a little chalky, Shropshire blue robust, Epoisses not quite ripe but the cheeses were generally in good condition (5/10). The desserts did not live up to the standard of the rest of the meal. A lemon parfait tasted of nothing; a “salad” of citrus fruits e.g. grapefruit slices with it was fine but was the only acidic taste present (0/10). Chocolate doughnuts were flaccid, served with black figs that were not properly caramelised, though served with a good yoghurt mousse and cream cheese sorbet (3/10).
Petit fours were similarly a let-down, with a dried out lemon financier that barely tasted of lemon, a rather tasteless jelly and salted caramels that were rock hard and needed more salt, and a slightly soggy pumpkin and saffron tuile. The coffee was actually rather good, but the kitchen is badly in need of a better pastry chef. The service was very good indeed;our waiter was attentive and friendly. Chef Shay Cooper trained at Juniper, Putney Bridge and The Vineyard, and was head chef at the Endsleigh Hotel in Devon. He shows a gift for attractive and not over-ornamented presentation, and savoury dishes are well seasoned and carefully cooked. Currently the overall standard is being let down by the pastry.