Where exactly is it? This delightful former part of Middlesex (now Zone 6 south-west London) is just a bit further out than Richmond and Twickenham – and handy for a glorious stretch of river, Bushy Park – and, of course, Hampton Court Palace.
The backstory? An earlier building on the site was known as The Greyhound in 1729, then the Guilford Arms, before being rebuilt in 1873 as the Clarence Arms and Hotel. Now Grade II-listed, it has just benefited from a £2.7 million makeover by tasteful London pub giants Young’s.
The vibes? She’s a stocky Victorian pile: the capacious pub interior boasts multi-floors and big windows overlooking the road, with airy restaurant behind. You can see where all that cash went, as the charm and character of the original building has been restored with close attention to detail.
The dining room: discuss. It lavishly harks back to fin-de-siècle Paris: bistro globe lighting, shiny parquet flooring, wood burners in marble surround fireplaces and grand deco mirrors. Framed vintage posters of Parisian girls and gramophones evoke the Moulin Rouge further, as do the curved banquettes made from rather luxe velvet and leather. 21st century touches include brass deer heads, a chilled wine cabinet and a scattering of zeitgeisty indoor pot plants.
Outside space? A very pleasant (extremely hot) sun terrace at the front, with stripy awning to protect from strong late afternoon rays; and a new courtyard garden on the side (so new it was not quite open on our visit).
What was good about the rooms? We stayed in a teal-accented feature room, although there are simpler classic and superior rooms too, 44 in total. A vast kingsize bed with a comfy cerise velvet headboard provided the centrepiece, with freestanding clawfoot tub in the corner. There were pattern print cushions, faded Moroccan rugs, pop art posters and pictorial nods to Hampton Court, while double glazing – lovely windows, incidentally – ensured the noise from the main road was inaudible. Sippers and snackers can raid the nespresso machine, complimentary tea bags and mini bar.
And the bathroom? Huge, blindingly white-tiled, with luxury double sink and possibly the largest-circumference shower head we’ve ever seen (complete with hi-tech control).
Anything on the snagging list? Only a couple of minor things. There were no tumblers, so we had to use the wine glasses for water. The room was – like many hotels – extremely hot and the air con very efficient, but a little noisy. Getting the balance between a place cool enough to sleep and somewhere quiet enough to drop off took a bit of time.
OK, let’s talk food. Like Young’s gastropubs generally, the menu balances on-trend dishes with popular classics. Starters were light with plenty of interest: a shallow bowl of hot smoked salmon was paired with the acidity of pickled cucumber, cooling radish and creme fraiche; tempura prawns were fat and juicy, though scaldingly hot, accompanied by a precisely tart peach salsa.
And mains? Rustic in a good way. Chicken pie had a light, flaky pastry, tender breast, and the gentle aniseed hit of tarragon, on a smooth mash. Rosy pan-seared trout fillets were elevated by a rich lemon butter sauce, with timeless support from waxy new pots and seasonal runner beans. And desserts gently thrilled, especially a sour apricot cheese tart with big slabs of white chocolate and the sweet hit of amaretti.
What’s the service like? We ate fairly late on a Sunday afternoon and the restaurant wasn’t busy, so the staff were attentive, with swift service, and were more than happy to talk about the interesting changes the building has been through.
To drink? An easygoing Côtes de Provence, but all the craft beers, decent wine and fashionable cocktails you’d expect are on offer. It’s perhaps best to hit the elegant bar for one in post-prandial manner.
Breakfast? Absolutely: a Continental smorgasboard is included in the room-rate – meats, cheeses, breads, baked goods, fruit and juices, with help-yourself coffee and tea. Or go for something cooked at an extra charge: we couldn’t resist the generous smashed avocado and soft-poached eggs on sourdough.
Don’t miss: the ten-minute roll down the high street to the river after lunch or dinner. At Ferry Road you’ll see the pedestrian suspension bridge, funded by local residents and businesses in 1889 to replace the ferry. It’s a gorgeously scenic location with boats, heather, pine trees and revamped waterfront pub The Anglers (for the best view nab table 205) directly on the riverbed. Adjoining boozer the Tide End Cottage has a pleasant alfresco terrace, too. Cross the bridge to Ham Common, where you can roam the pleasant towpath for miles, with its shingly beaches – and of course, the famous weir a few minutes one way, and Teddington Lock the other.
Anywhere else to eat? The high street is studded with independent shops and boutiques to peruse, as well as high quality cafes and restaurants; we can especially recommend coffee at Organically (97 High St), and the chicken shish skewers from the charcoal Turkish grill Ruba (132 High St).
Take a walk: The hotel is only a few minutes’ walk from the majestic open spaces of Bushy Park, where we gawped at herds of deer up close, including stags eating leaves from trees in front of us, the smell of roses and honeysuckle filling the warm air. If you cross the park, you reach the majesty of Hampton Court Palace: a fitting end to any mini staycation.