The Petersham has a fine location at the top of Richmond Hill, and if you come at lunch time or on a summer evening you will see a really fine view down over the countryside and the Thames. The dining room is quite large, with well-spaced tables, and carpets resulting in low levels of background noise. The Petersham Hotel had a change of chef in October 2017, the excellent Alex Bentley giving way to Jean-Didier Gouges, who formerly worked in the Albert Hall and in other London hotels including the St Pancras group, and was once a private chef to the President in his native Mauritius. He was not, however, present in the kitchen tonight (If I had a penny for every time I had written that sentence in reviews of a UK restaurant then I would be a wealthy man).
The menu offered three courses at £45, a limited three-course menu at £28.50 and a six-course tasting menu at £75. We went a la carte. The wine list had 115 labels with a median price of £50 and started at £27. Sample references were Saint Veran Domaine Collvoray & Terrier 2016 at £39.50 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £14, Reserve de Leoville Barton 2014 at £74 compared to its retail price of £35, and Chateau Batailley 2010 at £99 for a wine that will set you back £62 in the high street. For those with the means there was Chateau Pichon Longeuville 1990 at £280 compared to its retail price of £307, and La Mission Haut Brion 1995 at £399 for a wine whose current market value is £278. The average markup level on the list was 2.3 times retail price, which is significantly lower than central London, and the markups became kinder as you moved up the list to the more prestigious bottles. There was not room for a single wine from Germany yet there were two bottles from Israel, which seemed a little odd. However it was nice to see that there were a few bargains tucked away, such as the Chateauneuf-du-Pape Beaucastel 2010 at £105 for a bottle that retails at around £100. We drank Etienne Guigal Cote Roti Brune at Blondes (labelled ambiguously on the list as just “Cote Roti”, which could also refer to other wines from the Guigal stable) at £81 compared to its retail price of £47.
Bread was apparently made from scratch in the kitchen and was a choice of sourdough or fennel seed bread. Both were pleasant, and the fennel seed bread in particular had good texture (14/20). There were no canapés, so we went straight into the starters. Two langoustines (£13), served cold, came with “coriander Thai jus”, grilled pineapple, squid ink tuile and an “earth and sea marmalade”, which was not explained by the waiting staff. The langoustines were some of the tiniest I have ever seen, and had very little flavour and no natural sweetness; I suspect that they were frozen. The Thai dressing offered a bit of spicy distraction but this was a pretty miserable dish (10/20). Better was a fish cake (£9.50) with salmon and potato filling, served on a bed of warm salad of lentils and tomato with pickled lemon. The fishcake was fine and the salad was nice, the lemon providing some acidity (13/20).
Saffron risotto (£21) was definitely overly firm in texture, though it did taste of saffron. Broccoli, carrots and morels with it were all overcooked, the broccoli distinctly on the soggy side. It was edible but not a very good risotto (11/20). Dover sole (£45) was served on the bone, served with sautéed spinach, capers, beurre noisette and new potatoes. The sole was accurately cooked and had nice flavour, the spinach was good and the potatoes had good texture (easily 14/20).
A pear and ginger soufflé had barely risen, briefly popping its head above the ramekin in which it was cooked before sinking like a nervous tortoise retreating into its shell, served with a pleasant blood orange sorbet but a dried out shortbread biscuit. The pear and ginger flavour was minimal. What was particularly troubling was that this was the kitchen’s second attempt at making the soufflé, and they still couldn’t get it right. More air being beaten into the egg whites would be a good place to start (10/20). Classic creme brûlée was nice, with a good custard and a top that was not overly blowtorched, but let down by the same dry shortbread that I was served – they seemed to have a job lot of these that they were trying to dispose of (12/20). Coffee was Lavazzo and was acceptable.
The bill came to £105 per person, though if you ordered a cheaper wine then a more typical cost per person might be around £85. Overall this was a rather disappointing meal, especially given some enjoyable experiences here under the previous head chef. There was worrying inconsistency in the dishes, which isn’t acceptable at this price point.Book