Every time I come to Richmond from central London, I feel like I’m deep in the English countryside and far away from the worries and congestion of the capital. Richmond charms residents and visitors with an atmosphere of a beautiful and tranquil village, where you can picture King Henry VIII himself galloping by on his way to hunt deer in Richmond park.
Just around the corner from the park, The Victoria Public House, Dining Room and Hotel on West Temple Sheen is a perfect stop after that long walk and too much fresh air. Built in the 19th century it was a place where butlers, footmen, coachmen and other people from ‘downstairs’ let their hair down.
Nowadays Victoria’s clientèle can munch on delicacies prepared by the celebrity chef and TV personality Paul Merrett, who runs the pub with restaurateur Greg Bellamy.
Paul has earned two Michelin Stars in his time – one as a Head Chef at the L’Interlude restaurant in Charlotte Street in London and another working at the Greenhouse Restaurant in Mayfair. Some Michelin stardust landed on the Victoria – a pub that Paul bought, refurbished and relaunched. It was voted the Best Gastro Pub in London at the Great Pub Awards in 2011.
The pub offers great quality dining in a much more relaxed atmosphere than a Michelin-starred restaurant. The bicycles can be chained to a rack outside, dogs are allowed into its front room and families with children are more than welcome – there’s even a kids’ playground in the garden. The main dining area is in the spacious and bright conservatory, and a large leafy garden is the best place to enjoy a drink or meal on a beautiful day.
We sampled potted Cornish crab, goats’ cheese and figs for starters and chicken with caramelised sweet potatoes, roast peppers, avocado and mango for mains. The Victoria sells almost 30 different wines by glass, but I fell in love with probably one of the loveliest dessert wines I’ve ever had – Weegmuller Riesling Auslese.
With such great food and drink options, the beautiful deer in the park and the oxygen overload, no wonder that the residents of Richmond are among the happiest with their lot in the country. According to a local government survey a few years ago, 92.1% of them were satisfied with their area as a place to live. So if you want live in happy Richmond for a day or two, look no further than The Victoria, which has 7 hotel rooms on offer.
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