There’s no denying that Bingham Riverhouse is romantic. Set back from the river in its own exclusive space, away from the main drag of Richmond, it’s perfect for weddings, sanity breaks and literary liaisons dangereuses. The restaurant itself has a waterside view, cushioned seating, marble-top tables, duck egg and teal-coloured walls, subtle lighting and unobtrusive music. All lovely so far.
The thing is your time there is all a bit regimented. I know in these Covidian times we should not let personal bugbears curdle the milk of human kindness, especially in a review, but I’ve never been a fan of organised fun. Maybe I’ve been psychologically scarred by too many school trips and office shindigs where there’s a strict timetable and woe betide anyone who falls foul of the itinerary.
At Bingham Riverhouse diners are instructed to arrive an hour before the only available booking time of 7.30pm for their Covid screening (nothing sinister, don’t worry) and to enjoy an aperitif in the bar. This allocated hour reminded me of a military acquaintance who tends to officiously organise any form of aperitivo time in email invitations as “pre-party fun.”
In this sense the bar feels more like a doctor’s waiting room. When your hour is up (nope, no time to neck another Martini), each table is ushered through in turn to their actual table (perhaps a prescient foreshadow of Covid vaccination appointments?), and then each course is served to the whole dining room at the same time. Of course I get why this is done as it makes life easier for the kitchen but from the perspective of the customer it feels more like a wedding breakfast or corporate Christmas do than a private dinner with a companion. It then took another hour before the first course was actually served – time that could’ve been spent on more “pre-party fun.” The hour delay was all the more baffling as the first course was a gazpacho, which requires no cooking. The five course set dinner progressed at a glacial pace, taking four hours in total, and priced at £75 (sans booze, just FYI).
But now that rant is out of my system, I’m pleased to report the food on this visit was actually quite good. Under the direction of Masterchef The Professionals 2013 winner Steven Edwards, the cuisine is modern and accomplished with a keen eye for seasonality.
Following the refreshing gazpacho and dispatch of mini brioche loaves fresh from the oven, each table was presented with a solitary, but large, hand-dived scallop with a puree made from seasonal greengages. My only issue here was combining two sweet elements together but otherwise it was delicious.
Then, slow-cooked duck egg yolk with smoked sweetcorn and pickled onions had gloopy egginess, sweetness and acidity making for an interesting intermediary course.
Lamb rump and shoulder, whilst cooked correctly medium rare, was a little underwhelming for the main event, with tenderstem broccoli that seemed a touch overdone and a parsimonious helping of meat.
But then two desserts pulled things back on track: a blob of Valrhona manjari chocolate with local honey ice cream and trendy bee pollen was super rich, and the finale comprising a light almond cake with end-of-the-season griottine cherry ice cream evoked fond childhood memories of Bakewell tarts and happier, pre-Covid times.
The wine list – unconventionally in reverse price order – was (and still is) short. Again, Covid sympathies are required here as restaurants wake from their 4 month slumber, and the maitre d’ was at pains to assure me they were going to grow the list when normality resumes, but the lack of choice was a slight disappointment.
Of course we have to be grateful we can eat out at all right now and it’s clear that the staff care at Bingham. Apart from a few issues with service and my slender tolerance for all things regimented, it’s still a pleasant, well-intentioned restaurant.
61-63 Petersham Road
Richmond Upon Thames
by J A Smith