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Last updated 1 April 2020
Best pubs in Richmond London
Looking for pubs in Richmond London that are on the River Thames? Look no further than one of our favourites, the Whitecross Richmond. A quick search of Google for “pubs on the River Thames” or “riverside pubs in London” brings up a seemingly endless supply of possibilities. This makes complete sense given the length of the Thames and the close attachment the English have to their pubs.
There are the historic pubs in the docklands and fancy gastropubs in the city. Most that call themselves riverside will have a view of the river at least with the good ones having beer gardens and outdoor areas that sprawl along the water.
When I mentioned to my husband, many years ago, that I wanted to visit the best pub on the Thames, he had only one answer for me. The Whitecross. Having been there in the early nineties, he said it was just the type of unique pub I needed to see.
Without telling me why we set off to Richmond in search of this special pub. We’ve now returned to the Whitecross every time we are back in London. It hasn’t changed and the reason for going is still as bright as ever.
Here’s why you should include a visit to the Whitecross when you are next in London
The pub is nothing fancy to look at inside. It’s an old pub and there are no airs and graces to be found here. Dating back to 1780 it was rebuilt in 1838, giving support to just how old these English pubs can be. Mealtimes are especially busy here and outdoor seating is limited, so arrive early if you want to secure a seat.
Whilst not immediately evident, there is a small balcony outside the top floor of the pub. It will only seat a handful of people but it offers one of the best views of the river. It also is one of the best seats in the house for other reasons that will become evident as you keep reading.
Eating at the Whitecross Pub in Richmond
The Whitecross serves typical English pub food, heavy on all things fish and chips and burgers. On Sundays, the roast lunch draws in quite a crowd and from what I saw, it all looked delicious. We had spent most of the day walking around Richmond Park so by the time we arrived at 3 pm, we were starving! We, therefore, couldn’t go past the British beef and hickory chicken burgers served on a brioche bun. Walking is thirsty work, so a couple of pints worked well to refresh us.
Taking in the view
The Thames is a busy river and there is certainly plenty of activity here. The river, operated by a series of locks, is used by many for boating, especially the houseboats. As such there is a constant stream of boats moving past the pub in both directions. The weeping willows that line the banks provide the perfect backdrop, their branches gently blowing in the breeze.
Nearby is the famous Richmond Bridge. Built in the 18th century to replace a ferry crossing, it is now the oldest surviving bridge on the River Thames.
Why is the Whitecross Pub so unique?
The Thames River is tidal, with a large tidal range of up to seven metres. It’s also a fast flowing river, meaning the change of tide can happen quite quickly. At the Whitecross, high tide becomes part of a daily performance. A visit to the Whitecross should be timed, wherever possible, to coincide with the arrival of high tide.
The Whitecross is built right on the river’s edge. As the inbound tide rises, the river breaches its banks. At first, the water seems to edge quite slowly over the river wall.
From our position on the balcony, we watched it all unfold. People still walk through and around it and those in the pub are still engaged in their conversation. At this stage, a newcomer might be completely oblivious to what is about to unfold.
It’s about this time when someone from the pub will come out into the courtyard and tell you that the river is on its way! Then, in what feels like the blink of an eye, the water has picked up momentum as it races over the towpath and towards the pub. There’s a flurry of activity as owners of bicycles (and sometimes cars) rush to remove them from the water. Others will come down to start taking photos and videos, unable to believe their eyes.
At this stage, it’s almost too late to save anything left along the path. Whilst it might seem that the water isn’t too deep immediately in front of the pub, it’s a different story around the side. The water makes its way towards the shore, starting to cut off access to a number of places.
The water comes further and further into the pub. People start to move their belongings and their feet to higher ground.
The staff don their gumboots to enable them to continue table service to those who will undoubtedly be staying a while longer in the beer garden. The local ducks, well accustomed to this quirk of nature, come to the pub for food.
Knowing when to leave
Knowing when to leave is the tricky part and will ultimately be determined by how long you want to stay at the pub, or in the Richmond area. Even to seasoned Whitecross attendees like us, it’s very easy to get caught up in the theatre of it all and forget about the water pushing around the side of the pub. In essence, the high tide completely surrounds the Whitecross and makes leaving a difficult proposition until the water recedes.
When the pub manager comes out into the beer garden yelling “If you want to leave, you need to do it now”, we had that moment of mild panic. We needed to be somewhere else that evening so we definitely couldn’t wait for the tide.
I raced downstairs and out to the side entry and had my “oh shit” moment. We were completely and utterly surrounded.
The manager was nearby and heard me say this and promptly asked me what size shoes we took. Soon thereafter, a staff member appeared with a pair of gumboots for the pair of us. She then followed us through the water until we reached the shore once again and returned the boots, ready for their next unsuspecting wearer.
It was a hilarious end to another great session at one of the best pubs in London. Always fun, always plenty of river action, and who could argue that this is something you don’t see everyday!
Where is the Whitecross Pub?
The Whitecross pub isn’t hard to find, located right on the river in Richmond, near the Richmond Bridge. It is also one of the closest pubs near Richmond Station.
Riverside (off Water Lane)
Richmond, Surrey, TW9 1TH
The Whitecross is open Monday – Saturday from 10 am until 11 pm. On Sunday opening hours are from 10 am until 10.30 pm.
If arriving by car, the closest car park is in Friars Lane, located 200m from the pub. The M3, M25 and M4 all lead into Richmond.
If using public transport, the closest train and tube station is Richmond on the District line (zone 4)
The closest bus station to the Whitecross is the main Richmond Bus Station.