Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa review: where countryside meets city
Leave the urban rush behind at this relaxing retreat in the leafy London suburb
For town-dwelling working parents such as myself, escaping to the country for a spa break can seem like a far-off dream.
But after discovering such a haven of calm just a short hop away in southwest London, I and an equally frazzled friend waste no time in arranging an overnight stay. Located on the edge of Richmond Park in the leafy borough of the same name, the Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa is billed as a luxurious rural retreat within the city.
Eager to begin our pampering getaway, I roll up two hours before official checking-in time, in a clear breach of hotel etiquette. But the understanding staff simply grab my bag and pack me off to the spa for a glass of Prosecco – a very welcome first taste of the laid-back hospitality that defines the Richmond Harbour.
Hotel high life
Sitting at the top of Richmond Hill, with wild deer on the doorstep (or just across the road in the park, at least), the Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa is a white-fronted Georgian mansion with bags of character.
The hotel reopened with a new look last spring after a fire destroyed the third floor in 2019, two years after the former country house was acquired by the Harbour hospitality group. The expert makeover team retained the original winding staircases and other period features, while adding luxury amenities and vibrant decor to suit modern tastes.
This balancing act of traditional and contemporary is evident from the moment we enter the marble-floored lobby, where a help-yourself rack of Hunter wellies hangs opposite kaleidoscopic modern artworks. And while the centrepiece wooden table is covered in the leafy ferns found in Richmond Park, a bronze tree branch that seems to be growing from the ceiling above again upends our expectations.
The nods to park life continue in the armchair-dotted adjoining drawing rooms and up in the hotel’s 90 rooms, where bright prints of deer, foxes and the like adorn the walls.
My friend and I get plenty of opportunity to check out the decor while struggling to find our own Deluxe Suite. The spa-side Prosecco may have been a factor, but hard-to-spot signposting makes it tricky to navigate the hotel’s sprawling main building and recently rebuilt annexe.
This minor quibble is quickly forgotten when we finally track down our room, though. The Richmond Harbour doesn’t do unnecessary frills and flounces, just the stuff that guests might actually need to feel at home. The furnishings are simple and streamlined but comfy. And the colour palette is neutral with pops of patriotic red, white and blue, plus textured Mulberry Home wallpaper behind the bed.
Along with the expected coffee machine and pre-tuned radio, other nice touches include decanters of complimentary gin and sherry (“Reminds me of visiting my gran,” says my misty-eyed friend).
The White Company toiletries in our ensuite shower room are a welcome treat too. And the monogrammed bath robes and matching slippers in the wardrobe are just perfect for padding back down to the spa.
The 2019 fire also engulfed the health club that used to sit on the site of what is now the Richmond HarSpa & Club. Used by guests and local residents alike, the rebuilt version has 13 treatment rooms, a chill-out area, a spa garden with cedar hot tubs and a hydrotherapy pool, plus a juice bar.
For fitness kicks, there’s a 20-metre indoor pool with a sauna and steam room, workout studios and a large and well-equipped gym. In the interests of balancing research with relaxation, my friend and I opt to do laps of the pool ahead of our pre-booked treatments.
Or at least, they were meant to be pre-booked… a technical glitch means my friend’s massage hasn’t been logged in the central system. Yet despite also being understaffed owing to sickness, the spa receptionist quickly manages to reschedule my pal’s appointment.
This “can’t do enough” approach more than makes up for a few other hiccups during our stay, with the ever-friendly staff giving their all even when they’re clearly being pushed to the max. After I mention being a bit tired, one buzzed-looking staffer recommends a vitamin-energy drink from the spa cafe before confiding: “I’ve had four already this morning.”
The whole team deserve to be treated to the HarSpa’s signature Marine, Mind and Body treatment, a 160-minute top-to-toe experience that includes a foot soak, body scrub and massage, and bespoke facial. Emerging from this marathon of indulgence with thoroughly deknotted muscles, I feel re-energised and suitably primped for an evening of wining and dining.
Food for the soul
Judging by the chatter from neighbouring tables during our Saturday night visit, the hotel’s The Gate restaurant appears to be popular with Richmond residents as well as guests.
Named after the nearby Richmond Park gates, the restaurant is a sky-lighted, glass-walled, multi-level dining and bar space that spans the entire back of the hotel and extends out onto a large, leafy terrace. The main dining area is bordered on one side by a marble serving counter, while the bar area has a 1970s-esque Moroccan vibe with embroidered cushions, velvet banquettes, giant fringed lampshades and hanging potted plants.
The traditional but not stuffy menu is less eclectic, with the focus on comfort dishes such as (presumably poshed up) fish and chips, plus lots of chargrilled meats and a “plants” section with decent veggie options.
Although this Harbour hotel is nowhere near the coast, my main of monkfish tail with wilted spinach, confit tomato and balsamic glaze is the standout of my meal. And my friend is equally impressed by her starter of cured beef carpaccio with shavings of parmesan.
The portions are on the large size too, and combined with the generous servings of house red that we enjoy, neither of us can manage dessert.
But when we return for breakfast the next morning following a restorative swim and steam, we manage to do justice to The Gate’s excellent breakfast selection. A buffet of cereals, fruit, yoghurts and other fresh fare ticks the healthy boxes, while our poached eggs on sourdough toast and chorizo and potato hash leave us feeling pleasantly indulged.
In fact, health-boosting indulgence pretty much sums up our much-needed hotel stay.
Rates at Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa start from £140 per night on a B&B basis. Spa and gym memberships start from £110 per month; harbourhotels.co.uk