- Travel and Places
Richmond upon Thames, West London
Richmond upon Thames, The Most Beautiful Part of London
Richmond upon Thames is beautiful and historically fascinating borough in west London. Richmond Park was the royal hunting grounds and deer still roam free; Richmond Hill has the best view in London, loved by Turner and many other artists (and home to Pete Townsend of the Who, Mick Jagger and Ronny Woods of the Rolling Stones, David Attenborogh...); Kew Gardens are the old botanical gardens with plants from all over the world; Twickenham is famous for Rugby and the towns of Richmond, Kew, East Sheen, Barnes and Twickenham all offer some excellent dining and cultural experiences. Wimbledon, the home of British Lawn Tennis (and Croquet), is also less than 8 miles from Richmond.
This web-site is about this wonderful part of London which is less than 10 miles and just a short tube-journey from central London. I have included reviews, travel tips, advice and recommendations for:
Map of Richmond, West London - Map of Richmond, Twickenham, East Sheen and Kew Gardens
Richmond Upon Thames
The most beautiful borough in London
Excellent restaurants and theatres
Acres of parkland
Kew Gardens are probably the best and most famous botanical gardens in the world and the model on which many others are based. There are several interesting buildings including a royal palace and large glasshouses ranging from a few years old to several hundred years housing tropical plants and even oldest pot-plant, which lives in the Palm-house. Outside there are plants and trees from all over the world. There are indoor and outdoor restaurants including one in the Orangery building. Kew Gardens is also used as a venue for summer concerts.
Inside one of the Glasshouses in Kew
Books: Kew Gardens
Pagoda in Kew Gardens
The Terrace at the top of Richmond Hill looks down into the Thames Valley below, at the most beautiful section, where the river bends round towards Kingston, with Twickenham across the river and some small islands and moored boats in between. The beautiful Richmond Bridge to the right and the gates of Richmond Park just a few hundred yards away. The Terrace extends for several hundred yards, with a wonderful view from it's entire length and many wooden benches to sit on, and maps in front detailing the various points of interest in the view. Mick Jagger's house overlooks The Terrace and the clientele from the beautiful little pub, The Roebuck, empty out onto the Terrace, which makes a perfect place to enjoy a drink. .
The Best View in London
The view is the best in London. Ham house is visible from The Terrace. Parking is difficult on Richmond Hill, where it is mostly restricted to residents, but free parking is available in the park. Traffic on summer weekends is terrible, so coming by train or bus would be far better. It is free to visit the hill and the terrace, and inexpensive food is available nearby, or very expensive beer from the pubs on the hill.
Star and Garter Home, Richmond Hill, Surrey
Famous People Who Live on Richmond Hill
and Richmond Borough
Richmond Hill is home to many famous people including Pete Townsend the songwriter and guitarist from The Who (lives at "The Wick" on the Terrace), Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, the multitalented David Attenborough who is most famous for his BBC Natural History programmes and a career spanning 50 years and his older brother Richard Attenborough, the film director.
Other famous actors who live in Richmond (or have lived here), include: Joss Ackland; Joe Anderson; Helen Baxendale, Georgina Chapman, Peter Davison, Oliver Golding, Richard E Grant, Jerry Hall, Keeley Hawes, John Hannah, Amanda Holden, Jane Horrocks, Edmund Kean, Matthew McFadyen, John Mills, Robert Pattinson, Peter Sallis... to name but a few
Other famous musicians, artists and TV personalities from Richmond: Syd Barrett (Pink Floyd); Terry Britten (singer and songwriter); Rod Burton (children's TV presenter and musician); Richard Dimbleby (broadcaster); George Eliot (writer); Mary Elizabeth Braddon (novelist) The Fades (indie rock band); Bamber Gascoigne (television presenter); Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac); Guy Hollingworth (Magician) Mollie King (The Saturdays); Philip Lynott (Thin Lizzy); Brian May (Queen); Hugh McIlvanney (sports writer); Jason Bradbury (writer and TV presenter); Lawrence Dallaglio (rugby player); JMW Turner (artist); Rick Wright (Pink Floyd); Rudolph Nureyev (Ballet Dancer); Malcolm Arnold (composer); Richard Ashcroft (The Verve)
Restaurants in Richmond: San Marco
Richmond upon Thames suffers from the same problem as so many towns in England, with most of the independent restaurants on the high street gradually being replaced by the usual chain restaurants. In the main shopping areas there is a selection of good and not so good restaurants, but fortunately, a short walk from this area gives you access to several very good independent restaurants. San Marco is a good example of an Italian restaurant run by real Italians. I have eaten there many times over the last ten years or so, either at lunchtime, to get away from the hoards of shoppers or in the evening.
San Marco is at the bottom of Richmond Hill, near Richmond Bridge and next door to The Richmond Park Hotel on the Petersham Road. It is only a few hundred yards from the end of the main shopping area, but far enough to dissuade most shoppers from dropping in for lunch. It backs onto the river, but does not have access to the wonderful view, nor any outdoor dining space at the rear. The restaurant is quite small with probably just 20 tables, but has a very friendly and informal atmosphere. The decor is very simple with good-sized round tables with white tablecloths and plenty of space between them.
The cuisine is classic Italian, with the usual range of antipasti, primo, secondo and dolce courses. They do not however serve pizza.
The food is more expensive than the nearby chain restaurants, with a typical three-course meal with wine costing Â£70 or more. Main courses cost between about Â£12 and Â£18, but vegetables will cost extra, although are generous portions that can be shared. Pasta dishes are less expensive at Â£10 or less, which could make an excellent light luncheon on their own and antipasti range from about Â£5 to Â£10.
San Marco is a proper Italian restaurant in a great location serving good food and it is always an enjoyable experience eating there.
Restaurants in Richmond: La Buvette
Les Amis de Brula (Three small French restaurants in Richmond borough)
In my quest for good independent restaurants, rather than the usual chain restaurants found on so many high-streets, I stumbled upon this wonderful little restaurant in the heart of Richmond upon Thames. It is only a very short distance from George Street, the main shopping area, set in a small courtyard accessed by a pedestrian only passage, Church Walk, running down the side of Tescos Metro and the church. It would be easy to miss, despite being so central, unless you knew that it is there. Arguably this is a chain restaurant in that it is the "sister" restaurant of Brula, which is just a mile or so away in St. Margaret's and a third restaurant called La Saveur in East Sheen. The three restaurants together are known as "Les Amis de Brula"
The particularly charming thing about " La Buvette is the courtyard, which has a few tables and a canopy in case of showers and makes an ideal place for a leisurely lunch in the summer. It is quiet, away from the busy main roads and shoppers. The restaurant is an old refectory and also provides a very pleasant dining area for when sitting outside isn't a viable option. At the weekends it tends to be quite busy, so booking would generally be required, rather than just turning up, but occasionally when there have been just two of us they have managed to accommodate us without booking.
The food is of a classic, simple, French bistro style, with a menu consisting of a few starters, soup, a selection of meat and fish main courses, a few desserts and a cheese platter or a two or three course lunchtime Prix-Fixe menu consisting of a subset of the full menu for Â£12 or Â£14.50. There is a reasonable selection of wine or the house wine for just Â£12.50 or so a bottle which can also be served in small carafes or by the glass.
The food and atmosphere at this lovely little restaurant give a very good approximation to a real French experience. It is reasonably priced and does not have the feel of a chain restaurant. I would certainly recommend eating here if you are in or near Richmond.
Summary: Proper French cuisine in a great location
Where to Eat
Restaurant: Zizzi (Italian)
I try to avoid eating in chain restaurants, but sometimes there is little other choice. On any high street you may be quite close to a small independent restaurant, but they are rarely in the more expensive prominent, convenient locations, so unless you know of their existence a good consistent chain restaurant may have to suffice. Zizzi is just such a place, serving consistently good quality, simple, Italian food. The pizzas are particularly good and excellent value too. Everything is approximately Italian in style, rather than Italian American, albeit never quite as good as the real thing.
There a quite a few Zizzi restaurants in London and have found them to be fairly consistently good. My local one, in Richmond, is the best that I have been to, partly because the staff very are good, friendly and seem to care about the job.
Pizza and Calzone
There are twelve pizzas and two calzone ranging from Â£6.50 for a Margherita to Â£10 for the Pizza di Mare, which are generally a very good approximation to a proper thin-crust Italian pizza, cooked in an authentic way in the large wood-burning oven. The Diavola is a potent hot pepperoni pizza with chilli, but all pizza are served with chilli oil if you like a bit more kick.
The wine list is fairly small but includes some good value wines such as Montepulciano d'Abruzzo or Frascati ranging from Â£13 to Â£26 or Â£45 for the best Champagne. Italian lagers and soft drinks are also available.
Birds in Richmond Park
Deer in Richmond Park
This photo was taken from my lounge window in Richmond.
Indian ring-neck parakeets, a kind of small parrot, live wild in the parks in Richmond Borough and are gradually spreading across the country. There are various stories about how they got there, but my favourite is that they escaped during the making of a film in Richmond Park (Richmond is a popular place for film-makers because of the natural beauty, proximity to central London and the film studios and a selection of ancient architecture nearby) The escapees formed a breeding colony in the park which has an abundance of trees and food for these amusing birds and a surprisingly mild climate. They are also fruit trees in the gardens of the wealthy Richmond residents (The parakeets are not universally popular).
Richmond has a lot to offer for tourists, either for a day trip from central london or as a place to stay.
There are three theatres (i.e. real theatres, not cinemas) within walking distance of Richmond train and tube station:
Richmond Theatre, Richmond Green
The Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond centre
Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham
Places to eat
Jamie Oliver's Italian Trattoria, Richmond (inexpensive Italian restaurant created by Celebrity Chef, Jamie Oliver)
La Buvette (see separate review)
San Marco (See review)
The Bingham Hotel
Cafe Mama, Kew Road (excellent family run Intalian)
Cinemas (i.e. Film Theatres)
The White Cross, on the river, Richmond centre
The Cricketers, Richmond Green
Richmond Park Hotel
Richmond Hill Hotel
The Bingham Hotel
Twickenham is famous for rugby, but it is also an ancient town, which features in the Doomesday Book. It is just a mile from Richmond, over the bridge, or or a slightly longer walk along the tow-path of the river.
Other places nearby
Things to see and do in Richmond Borough
A beautiful village with good restaurants a train ride away from Richmond. There are many good pubs and restaurants and home to the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust centre and excellent place to see wildlife in London.
Richmond was originally called Sheen, before Queen Elizabeth moved into the Palace and the town changed its name to Richmond. East Sheen, is a short walk away, next to the park and also has a good selection of independent restaurants including the excellent Lofty Turtle Restaurant and Bar (formerly known as the Naked Turtle)
The main gate of Kew Gardens is on Kew Green. This ancient green has a good selection of architecture, restaurants and bars, but is spoilt a little by the big road running through it and over Kew Bridge.
Strand on the Green
Next to the river near Kew Bridge, and Kew Green. Three excellent old riverside pubs: The Bell & Crown (1751), The City Barge (1786) that featured in the 1965 Beatles film Help! and was previously known as the Maypole Inn until 1807 and The Bull's Head (1722)