Based in the leafy West London suburb of Richmond, The Bingham is tucked away behind a wooden door on the river Thames’ doorstep. With such beautiful surroundings, it’s not hard to walk past the secret garden entrance to the luxury boutique hotel and restaurant. Opening on to a quintessentially British David Austin rose garden that plays host to parties and weddings throughout the summer, the sophisticated Georgian townhouse stands tall.
The Bingham’s new rosé bar is the first of its kind in London, offering a selection of floral cocktails, rosé wines and champagnes, as well as afternoon tea. On fair weather days, guests can enjoy a drink on the balcony or relax in the lavish bar area. As we sipped on a delicate rose fizz in a rose-shaped glass, we sat down with The Bingham’s owner, Samantha Trinder to talk about her upbringing in hospitality, the highs and lows of the boutique hotelier industry and her newfound love for yoga (she also owns an ‘eco wellbeing escape’ called Bhuti nearby).
When her parents bought the building in 1984 it was merely a “run-down B&B”, as Samantha says; half home and half budget accommodation. Prior to this, her parents ran nursing homes for thirty years and treated them like hotels. “Every mealtime or every holiday was spent talking about a chef or using plates for dinner, choosing glasses...it’s sort of in your blood, even if you don’t have formal training, it’s about learning to host, knowing how to make things look nice” Samantha tells us.
Yet despite growing up in the industry, the hotelier’s true love laid in writing, with dreams of one day becoming a journalist (or the prime minister). It was only during her university days at St.Andrew’s that she became interested in restaurants and bars. Working in a contemporary fine dining restaurant with a Michelin starred chef, she was exposed to wine tasting and caught the bug for the business.
The pivotal moment came when Samantha was in her early twenties - her mother wanted to sell The Bingham due to a lack of revenue and the only way to save the hotel was if someone from the family got involved. “I had no hotel management experience - I was twenty-two - and just learnt on the job. It was like Fawlty Towers, we had a seventy-eight year old waiter!” Samantha tells us.
Although she started off having no formal training, with Samantha at the helm, The Bingham doubled its turnover and underwent a complete refurbishment in 2008. The restaurant even went on to win a Michelin star a year later and became Richmond’s first boutique hotel. Having managed the hotel full time until three years ago, Samantha then hired general manager Erick Kervaon, became a qualified yoga teacher and opened Bhuti.
So what is the secret to a successful hotel? Samantha tells us that “A lot of focus is looking after the team, and then they will look after the guests. Recognising them [the guests] by name, making an effort to make them genuinely feel at home and not just tick boxing; it’s all about personal relationships”. In the future, the team are planning to refurbish most of the rooms by early next year and link more with Bhuti to incorporate health & well being into the hotel.
Whilst managing the hotel, Samantha was also juggling being a mother of two and setting up a business (Bhuti) - no mean feat to be sure. “In some ways, being a business owner is - as a woman - a better option than being employed” she tells us. “I was doing seventy to eighty hours per week at some stages, but I don’t think anyone can ever really have it all - you’re either a full time mum or full time at work. There will always be a certain expectation on yourself as a mother and society on you as a mother.”
“Running the hotel I found really stressful because I had nothing to compare it to. Dealing with things like complaints, chefs walking out and all of that, it was quite hard to stay calm. I’m not very thick skinned and I think you need to be quite thick skinned to be in hospitality. That’s why I got into yoga.” Samantha’s love for the discipline grew so much that she trained and qualified as a yoga teacher towards the end of maternity leave after having her second child in 2011. Trained in Shivanga and Iyengar yoga as well as now undertaking a yoga therapy degree, Samantha tells us: “I wanted to give everything up and become a yoga teacher full time, but now I’m trying to weave the hotel and the wellness retreat in together.”
“The physical aspect is only one per cent of it, ninety-nine per cent of it is mind, body, spirit connection, nutrition, breathing..it’s a whole lifestyle" Samantha continues.
A keen explorer, Samantha’s favourite travel destination is Lamu - a Kenyan island with Portuguese architecture. She describes it as “a moorish town with loads of old buildings and winding sandy streets.” Next on her list is Iceland to see the Northern Lights and Batu Batu - an island off Singapore.
Samantha's favourite part of the hotel business is the excitement that she would get from it: "No day is the same. I get goosebumps just standing there [in the restaurant] and seeing how it all works...I used to get such a buzz from that. I'd be very high after a busy Saturday night service. Its like being in the theater or something; it takes a while to come down."
It's clear that despite the success of The Bingham, Samantha is showing no signs of slowing down, keen to grow Bhuti and The Sybarite is sure that under her watch, both businesses will continue to go from strength to strength.
By Aimee Phillips