Kingston-upon-Thames, in the leafy suburbs of west London, may as well be in a different time zone for most residents of the capital.
Its quaint rows of shops, faux-Tudor public houses, cobbled streets and verdant parks are a world away from the grimy reality of much of the city.
So, what a joy to have an excuse to visit earlier this month to check out the freshly renovated Bingham Riverhouse.
Stepping off the District Line and onto the high-street, the bustling suburb is surprisingly busy for a Sunday evening – either vibrant or chaotic depending on your frame of mind.
But just a ten-minute walk away – including a lovely stretch along the Thames – our destination awaits.
From the front, the hotel looks like any other residential property in the area – which is exactly how it started out life.
Originally built as two Georgian houses, from 1899 it saw previous dwellers Katherine Bradley and Edith Cooper pen poems and plays under the famous pseudonym Michael Field.
At the time the house was something of a literary hub, and visitors, including W.B Yeats, flocked.
In 1984, the Trinder family acquired the property and it remains to this day in the care of mother and daughter, Ruth and Samantha.
It is when you open the front door that the magic starts.
After a month-long overhaul, each of the 15 bedrooms has been updated, while the dining rooms and bar have undergone a complete renovation.
Walking through the reception and into the main dining room, guests are greeted with sun dappled views over the river below, while the manicured gardens look equally inviting.
Check-in is as quick and informal as you would hope for a property of this size, and we are quickly been led to our room.
The corridors are narrow and the floorboards creaky – much to my delight – as we make our way upstairs.
Each room is named in honour of a flower and we are accommodated in ‘Callirhoe’.
A four-posted bed dominates the centre of space, while a chaise longue occupies a prime spot by the bay windows and allows one to while away the time gazing at the Thames.
This far out of central London the river is dominated by rowing boats and pleasure yachts, a world away from the heavy industrial traffic more common in the centre of town.
Following the refurbishment, led by award-winning interior designer Nicola Harding, the property has sought to become a mix between a private house and exclusive members club – and it appears some guests are staying for the long-haul.
The air is genial and friendly, with staff chatting amiably with residents.
Visitors can enjoy drinks in the double-height pink drawing room, where original art is showcased among grand ceilings, or head out directly on to the terrace.
Hundreds of Penguin Classics line the walls, an illustration of the property’s colourful literary past.
As owner Samantha Trinder explains: “I grew up in what was my parents’ bed and breakfast in the eighties and in the noughties, I was lucky enough to be given a free rein by my mother, a formidable Kenyan business woman, to transform it into Richmond’s first boutique hotel.
“As my journey has unfolded, I’m inspired to reconnect the Bingham with its history, to be a place for all to be themselves.”
Taking our seats for dinner, the atmosphere is personable and homely – this is boutique experience Ace Hotels and the Hoxton have sought to imitate.
The accents on the tables surrounding us are certainly plummy, giving the feeling of a life well lived in the more prosperous parts of London.
The gentle clink of glass and china signals the transition from lunch and afternoon tea and gets livelier when cocktails and aperitifs are being served.
The Riverhouse menu has been revived under the direction of award-winning head chef Andrew Cole and it certainly lives up to expectations.
On arrival our allergies are meticulously noted, as they must be in 2019, before we are served one of the best Sunday roasts I have ever tasted.
We start with ham hock rillette, served with pistachio cream, bacon nibs and toasted onion bread, before moving onto the main, medium-rare beef prepared to perfection, along with Yorkshire pudding and baby vegetables – a delight!
For dessert, I enjoyed my first rice pudding in perhaps two decades and seriously consider asking for seconds – what a waste of all those years after the dish was tarnished by school canteens.
General manager Erick Kervaon adds: “We are so excited to finally open the doors to this new chapter and introduce the Riverhouse; we want each guest to feel at home and part of this amazing journey from the moment they arrive.”
After dinner it is up to bed – each step bending slightly in the middle to illustrate age and giving the feeling of sneaking past your parents’ bedroom having arrived home late.
A wonderful experience in one of the parts of London largely untouched by mass tourism – well worth a visit.
Bingham Riverhouse is one of London’s most unexpected boutique hotels or, as they see themselves, a restaurant with rooms.
A Georgian townhouse overlooking the Thames, it is a gourmet bolthole for lunch and dinner dates, a chic retreat for romantic getaways and a timeless wedding and events venue.
Find out more on the official website.