Recently rescued from redevelopment, this smart pub is perfectly placed for a lazy Sunday exploring one of south west London’s most picturesque areas, and a good find at other times, too.
The north bank of the Thames immediately upstream of Twickenham is an idyll of rural lanes, riverside green spaces and swathes of parkland commanded by historic mansions. Of these, none is finer than the splendid Palladian villa of Marble Hill House, built for a mistress of George II when he was Prince of Wales and now under the management of English Heritage. Immediately opposite the surrounding park and commanding a fine view of the house, the pub formerly known as the Marble Hill is a much more modest building but striking enough in its way, strategically placed on a bend of Richmond Road near St Stephen’s church. Long a slightly neglected Young’s pub, it was sold on in summer 2012 and narrowly escaped conversion into a Sainsbury’s Local. But in August it was reopened as a free house by new independent landlords Roger and Magdalena Davy, who have renamed it after their young son Aleksander.
The rustic surrounds are underlined by a generously proportioned and very leafy beer garden at the front. Indoors, a moderately sized single space was clearly once divided into two. It’s been elegantly done out with an unusual but pleasing mix of conventional dining tables and chairs, big armchairs, long padded benches and small low tables with pouffes. An open plan kitchen is being added next to the bar.
This is a civilised pub in a generally well-heeled area, but it’s also relaxed and easy going with polite but welcoming staff. It particularly sets out to be family-friendly, understandably so given the attractions of the park and riverside, with games and toys, and a small outdoor playground shortly to be added. Though there’s decent food on offer, the venue isn’t dominated by dining. The TV springs to life only if there’s a big rugby match or some other major sporting event on terrestrial channels. Other entertainment includes live music on Fridays and alternate Sundays, and an outdoor food market should soon be running on Sunday daytimes. When the sun shines, it’s idyllic.
Food has an Italian flavour, with fresh pasta, wood-fired pizzas and salads, alongside lighter choices (buffalo mozzarella and pesto panini £6.95, chicken satay with mixed leaves £8.95) and popular Sunday roasts (£9.95-£12.95). Local artisanal ice creams from Danieli of Richmond provide both sit-down desserts and warm weather takeaways.
Beer is a particular interest, with the current very respectable range likely to expand. Three handpumps usually dispense Naked Ladies or another beer from excellent local microbrewery Twickenham, Sharp’s Doom Bar and a guest that might be from Dark Star, Sambrook’s or Surrey Hills. Ten keg lines include offerings from Affligem, Anchor, O’Hara’s, Paulaner and Thornbridge, while the bottles mix Belgian delights from Dolle Brouwers with Australia’s Little Creatures and Iceland’s Einstöck. 12 white and 12 red wines are mainly well chosen varietals, with half each available by the glass (from £3.40). Decent whiskies and rums, and gin and vodka from Sipsmith in Hammersmith also illustrate what landlord Roger describes as a ‘focus on quality’.
The Last Word
It’s unbelievable that anyone ever thought of turning such a potential treasure into a convenience store. Thankfully, this fine old pub survives and under the current ownership looks set to achieve its true potential.