I had my mother visiting London from overseas for her birthday in August. She had never been for an afternoon and really wanted to experience the relaxed, pampered spoiling and opulent indulgence that goes with English afternoon teas. I deliberated for weeks, trying to find the perfect place to take her, and eventually settled on the Bingham Hotel. I wish I hadn’t. It was an afternoon of stifled awkwardness with me coming away feeling ripped off and disappointed.
When I made the booking telephonically I asked a lot questions to ensure I got exactly what I wanted. I put the phone down with a confirmation that my booking for 3 would be accommodated outside at a table on the terrace – if the weather was good enough – with spectacular, relaxed river views. We arrived on a beautiful sunny afternoon, Sunday 25 August, and were shown to a two-seater couch and additional stool around the side of the bar in the tea room, being told that under no circumstances, at any time, could three people be accommodated on the terrace as it was too narrow. An awkward conversation followed with me appealing to the waitron to at least move us to a table as my mother finds low couches uncomfortable to sit at (this was emphasised when I made the booking). Eventually we were moved to a table that was too small, being told that it was not possible to move two tables together. They did however move an additional small mirror topped table next to our table (full of dust and cracked) to accommodate extra teapots next. I hoped things would get better once the tea arrived.
A three-tiered platter of sandwiches, cakes and scones arrived. The sandwiches were horrifying. A thin piece of ham licked with mustard clung between two miserable, dry and slightly curled pieces of cheap, shop bought looking bread is not my idea of a fancy sandwich. Similarly, the smoked salmon, cucumber and ungenerous egg mayonnaise fillings were as disappointing and tasteless. The cakes were better. The perfectly respectable dark chocolate tart and fig doughnut were lovely – but the festive fruit cake was decidedly out of place and not something that should ever be put in an afternoon tea. The scones were average – and tasted as if the chef had forgotten to add sugar to the dough that also should have been lighter and more crumbly. The clotted cream and jam portions were measly.
The tea was lovely. The only thing I can criticise about the tea is that my partner didn’t get the tea he ordered. What he got though, he enjoyed – but this is not service one expects from such an establishment.
Additionally, halfway through our tea another party of three arrived wanting to sit on the terrace – and they were accommodated.
In summary, at £25 a head, I feel totally ripped off. I also think it was exceedingly cheeky and presumptuous of the hotel to automatically add a service charge to the bill when we very obviously did not receive the service we were promised. More than that I feel robbed of being able to share an experience that should have been amazing and memorable with my mother who lives thousands of miles away and who I do not see very often.
To top the whole experience off, as we left the hotel we saw that the narrow terrace opened up onto a wider terrace with lots of big empty tables on it. Why we could not have been seated there, is beyond me.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Bingham is a restaurant with rooms in a beautiful Georgian townhouse overlooking the Thames and has been awarded an AA red star. Refurbished in a classic chic style, its award-winning restaurant has three AA Rosettes. The Bingham has also won awards for its afternoon tea. There is a destination cocktail bar, and the Bingham has 15 individually designed bedrooms, all en-suite. The popular Garden Rooms events space, and riverside garden are ideal for business and family celebrations, and weddings. Located in a picturesque riverside setting just minutes from Richmond town centre, Richmond's Royal Park, and world famous attractions such as Kew Gardens, and Hampton Court Palace, are all within easy reach. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Bingham Hotel Richmond-Upon-Thames
- Rodeway Inn Richmond