The Alexander Pope Hotel, Twickenham
A staycation seemed a wonderful idea on the hottest day of the year in London, especially to leafy Twickenham in the South West of London on the banks of the Thames. The journey was under an hour but since the aircon in my car wasn’t working, we arrived very hot indeed. The cool interior of The Alexander Pope hotel and pub was a very welcome relief. Parking right outside the hotel, we had our overnight bags in the lobby in no time at all and were warmly greeted. The check in was easy and quick. I asked the young reception staff member to call a local museum to enquire about visiting hours which she did and even went the extra mile of looking up the details online.
The room – a twin as requested – was stylishly furnished with dark and light woods and mushroom coloured walls and cream carpet. It had great air conditioning. The bed was very comfortable with good pillows and the room had thick curtains to ensure a darkened room for sleep. There was plenty of cupboard space as well as a large wooden table which could be used as a desk. The bar fridge was filled with all the usual drinks and even a small bottle of milk for the tea tray. Three types of organic tea from Joe’s Tea Co. were provided along with a Nespresso machine. A biscuit might be a nice addition. The bathroom was compact and had a rain shower. Shampoo and body wash were provided.
We were given a downstairs room which had a small balcony overlooking the carpark and a busy main road so the room was a bit noisy. However, other rooms face the back of the property and are probably quieter. I was travelling with an elderly companion and was pleased to find a disabled lift up to the front door and an interior lift to the upstairs rooms.
The hotel is one of the Young’s Pubs chain of boutique hotels which are located within easy reach of London. It is situated on a main road but has an attractive and soundproofing feature in the modern, glass conservatory on the front of the building. Not only does this provide an interior space on the odd day when it is too hot to sit out, and all those London days when it is too cold, but it also provides a quiet space with a view over the Thames which is literally over the road.
We made our way to the conservatory for tea. Mismatched wooden tables and chairs were fashionably chic. Behind the conservatory, there was a large lounge dining space including chesterfield sofas around a large fireplace that must be lovely to sit at during the winter. On a sideboard, I noticed a collection of crayons and drawing materials for children.
We ordered tea because in my view it is never too hot for a pot of English Breakfast. A very friendly waitress helped us to resolve the lack of cake on offer at teatime – this is a pub after all – by bringing us the lunch menu from which we ordered a slice from the dessert section. That is the kind of service I appreciate – a bit of initiative and can-do attitude for the customer.
A delightful tea set arrived – a teapot in a speckled brick colour, a speckled grey cup and saucer and a dinky duck egg blue milk jug. Very stylish. A large slice of white chocolate and vanilla cheesecake was served with a berry coulis. It was divinely rich but not too sweet and the tart berries were a good accompaniment.
Later as the sun began to drop a little we braved the heat to sit on the shaded patio on one of a series of comfy outdoor sofas. All about us drinks were downed by pub customers. The bar had a good array of ales and the pub serves both as a place for guests to drink as well as being a local watering hole. The patio had a table tennis table which is great for keeping the kids entertained.
I took a short walk over the road to stroll along the Thames on which the ducks bobbed. It is such a peaceful spot – broken only by flights above coming in to land at Heathrow – that I imagined Mr Toad and Badger coming into view at any minute in their little boat with a picnic to enjoy. Having only been away from home for a mere three hours I already felt transported and relaxed.
Being such a warm night the outdoor tables at the Alexander Pope were full for dinner. A bowl of herb-flecked olives provided a tasty snack with our welcome drinks Although lager, ale or wine was on offer we chose non-alcoholic options. I do enjoy a good quality ginger beer.
As part of the summer package I had been invited to review, we had a choice of two courses for dinner. Having already enjoyed cake at teatime we chose starters and mains. My companion chose the king prawn cocktail which was presented in a lovely glass dish, the plump prawns in Marie rose sauce nestled on a bed of gem lettuce.
I opted for the summer pea and watercress soup which I thought might be served chilled considering the weather. Although it was served hot I was perfectly happy as I love soup even on a warm night. The soup was both lemony and peppery and had a good pea flavour and colour. It was served with toast.
For mains, my companion had a 28-day-aged Angus sirloin served with a hearty portion of triple cooked chips, a helping of watercress and a peppercorn (or Béarnaise) sauce on the side. When the steak seemed a tad rare for my companion (although cooked perfectly medium-rare as requested) the waitress kindly removed it and returned it swiftly. One happy customer.
I ordered a soft shell crab burger with tarragon mayo and chalk valley watercress fries. I couldn’t work out what the watercress fries were as the bowl of thin cut fries showed no sign of watercress being served with small pots of mayo and ketchup. The burger was delicious, one of the most unusual burgers I have eaten. A whole soft shell crab, deep fried and served on a sweet brioche bun with tarragon mayo. I wasn’t sure how to approach it since the claws were protruding on all sides. Then I recalled it was soft shell and just got to work. There was a satisfying crunch that gave way to the sweet crab meat with the tarragon providing a herby note.
There were some veggie and vegan items on the menu. While four out of ten starters were vegetarian, one of which was also vegan, only one of ten mains was suitable for a vegetarian or vegan, though perhaps the pub can offer some of the starters in main size portions? Otherwise, the menu was well varied with all the pub favourites in attendance: fish and chips, steak and ale pie, steak and chips, burgers, pork sausage and mash, fishcakes and chicken Caesar salad. Desserts included crumble, chocolate brownie, cheesecake, pannacotta, a cheese board or ice cream.
Although we were teetotal I perused the wine list and liked how user-friendly it was. Around 50 wines, many available by the glass were divided into categories such as mineral and complex, ripe and rounded, bold and fruity, savoury and complex and so on.
In the morning, after a great night’s sleep at the Alexander Pope, we rose reluctantly for breakfast – fortunately, it is served until 10 am. In the dining room a long, wooden table was laid out with a Continental selection – croissants, a small platter of one cheese and another of two cured meats. Glass jars were filled with granola, cornflakes and all bran. Toast could be made to order. The saddest fruit bowl I have seen in a hotel sat amidst the rest of the food on offer. The fruit – apples and over-ripe, brown bananas – was not welcoming. Why not serve bowls of berries so abundant at this time of year? In fairness, I found a peach at the bottom of the bowl.
The hot breakfast options were mainly egg based – a little more variety perhaps could be on offer for vegans or those who don’t eat eggs. My companion chose the Continental breakfast which she did not enjoy terribly much especially as the croissant was lacking in flakiness. She was disappointed by the fruit and there was no yoghurt available with the granola. These are small things that can hopefully be remedied with ease.
I chose a smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagel only to be told that the kitchen had run out of smoked salmon. Why does a kitchen run out of smoked salmon when it is on the daily breakfast menu? As I am trying to eat healthily I resorted to a bowl of porridge with cinnamon. The porridge was perfectly fine, a big creamy portion with a good sprinkling of cinnamon, I could not help feeling a bit let down though as this is what I eat every day of the week for breakfast at home.
Food aside, the real problem with breakfast was the staff. ‘Not very friendly’ my companion observed which was both true and surprising since the evening before the service was excellent and super friendly. Perhaps this waiter had a headache or had not received sufficient customer care training. He was busy clearing the breakfast settings away rather than paying us the slightest attention. Usually, breakfast waiters offer a top-up of tea or enquire whether guests require anything additional to what has been served. Or at the very least are bright and smiling. In a hotel, I want to feel eased into the day, not ignored. After all, I have climbed out of bed for this.
For a staycation, The Alexander Pope is a comfortable, boutique hotel in the midst of a very pretty neighbourhood and in walking distance of Twickenham high street. There are many tourist attractions nearby and plenty to fill a few days of sightseeing without even approaching central London itself. It is very well located too if attending a match at the nearby rugby stadium. It offers visitors easy access to the Thames and surrounding parks such as Richmond and Kew. The atmosphere is relaxed and generally friendly and the food is good value.
Alexander Pope was one of the foremost poets of his age in the early 1700s and played an important role in the development of ‘natural gardening’ in England. In the eighteenth century, Twickenham was a rural retreat which attracted artists of all kinds. Pope built a villa in Twickenham with gardens and a grotto which was fashionable at the time. Although the villa was demolished after his death the grotto remained. The Alexander Pope pub and hotel is named in his honour. The original pub built in 1852 by Young and Bainbridge, was bombed during WWII but was rebuilt and opened in 1959. A minute’s walk from the banks of the river Thames, The Alexander Pope is less than half a mile from Strawberry Hill train station (with direct trains to London Waterloo), and about a mile and a half from Twickenham rugby stadium. All the rooms have air-conditioning, free Wi-Fi and a range of amenities. Some also have riverfront balconies.
The Alexander Pope is offering a special one-time code for summer – along with the other hotels in the Young’s Pubs group – which includes double occupancy B&B with a welcome drink, a two-course dinner for two and a sleepover plus breakfast, all from £129. The code is SUMMER18 and is valid from 1 August until 9 September.
Thinking of visiting Twickenham yourself? Why not pin this post for later
I was a guest of The Alexander Pope but all opinions are my own.
The Alexander Pope
Twickenham TW1 4RB
Phone: 020 8892 3050