First Visit to Petersham Nurseries Teahouse and Cafe

A dry bank holiday weekend in Britain – fairly unusual! To mark a bright, sunny day, we took an impromptu trip to Richmond Upon Thames. After a little row in a boat and a lovely walk along the riverbank, we also decided to pop into Petersham Nurseries. I’d been meaning to go for some time. Strangely I had never made it up to the nurseries even though I used to live and work in Richmond.

Petersham Nurseries is perhaps most well-known in a foodie sense for the Petersham Nurseries Café. This was the café at which Skye Gyngell famously gained a Michelin star in 2011, before leaving the nurseries shortly afterwards, describing the star as a ‘curse.’ Of course, at the time of receiving it, she had been thrilled and it certainly marked a significant departure from the usual standards expected within a Michelin star establishment. The food, freshly grown, local, simple, spoke for itself. The ambiance was relaxed, eclectic, with a mishmash of wooden tables and reclaimed chairs and a bamboo shaded roof. No table linen, no pristinely set tableware and very laid-back service. But the star drove in hoards of demanding customers and as the complaints rose, the achievement became overshadowed by the pressure of maintaining standards and high expectations.

Petersham Nurseries Café  

Fellow Australian chef Greg Malouf bravely took the mantel, bringing with him his own personal stamp of ‘modern’ Middle Eastern cooking. Greg describes the café as one of the most ‘unique restaurants in the country.’ He’s settled in well; the team at the nurseries have planted Greg his own plot so they must like him! Greg has weaved his own magic through seasonally inspired, contemporary dishes. Food such as Buffalo Ricotta, Shaved Courgettes, Purple Basil, Bruschetta and Violas or Fattouche Salad, Baby Beets and Bhatura with Edible Flowers. This is probably one of the few cafés in England, where you can eat food adorned with edible flowers and then pop outside to the shop to buy them for your own garden.

Sadly, our visit there yesterday was too late in the day to sample a Petersham Nurseries Café lunch (it is open Tuesdays – Sundays, lunchtime only, serving noon-2.45pm) but we will venture back.  Greg is now also running a couple of evening ‘candlelit’ supper clubs on 6th and 7th September and the autumn will welcome a new menu. It is pricey, yes, but I would think of it as an individual experience to be savoured for a special treat.

Petersham Nurseries Teahouse

Arriving as we did half an hour before closing, we just about managed to explore the garden centre, shop and teahouse. Officially, there is one main teahouse, a large glasshouse adjacent to the café, but there are also plenty of chairs and tables dotted around, some inside, some outside. We sat in an area just outside of the main glasshouse, which was enchanting. Antique chairs, rickety tables, nestled in amongst olive trees and lemon trees and huge pots of hydrangeas and individual glass vases filled with bright dahlias.  The teahouse serves whole leaf Chinese tea and Fair Trade coffee, along with an assortment cakes and mini scones as well as an Italian-inspired daily-made lunch. You do pay a premium for the fashionable surrounding (£3.50 for two mini scones) but you are left to seat yourself and the staff do not hurry you along in any way.

Michelin-stardom aside, a visit to Petersham Nursery offers a very British and a very individual experience. Although a three course ‘a la carte’ meal at the café may turn out to be quite steep, for the ambiance and individuality, on balance, I’d say it is still probably is worth a detour and you could always just stay for tea.

Petersham Nurseries, off Petersham Road is open
Monday to Saturday, 9am – 5pm
Sunday, 11am – 5pm
NB he Teahouse is closed on Monday
Petersham Nurseries Cafe is open for lunch Tuesday to Sunday. Bookings available from 12pm – 2.45pm
My visit was a family visit as part of a day out – there was no incentive to review or write about my experience. Photos my own.

Have you ever visited Petersham Nurseries or have you your own local gem to visit?

 

Comments

  1. says

    I was very interested to read your review, Ren, as I too adore Petersham. We like to walk to Ham House from the railway station, do a tour, and then walk to Petersham for tea and cake on the way back. It’s such a nice spot to stop. When my sister and I have visited in the day, we are often the only ones without pushchairs! The teas, coffees and cake are consistently superior to anywhere else we have found in the vacinity.

    • Ren says

      Another fan! And yes, I can imagine is being something of a buggy zone from what Laura has mentioned! Still, there are plenty of corners there and lots of things to explore and of course, the lovely cake!

  2. says

    I absolutely agree with both Helen and Jude here. I love the nurseries and used to live down the road from Jude! I remember Petersham nurseries both before it was converted and the magical transformation of it. I have such fond memories of it as I used to meet my NCT friends there regularly with our first newborn babies in tow. I loved their teas and coffees and always managed to fit in a few delicious slices of cake.
    I have never eaten a meal there but I imagine it would be superb.
    Kooks unlimited also used to be my favourite shop ever. They moved the cake decorating shop up the road as the shop was getting so full of everything you could ever wish for.
    In fact, I have met and shopped in it with Jude fairly recently!

    • Ren says

      Ahh how nice to meet there as an NCT newbie mum. We used to always meet at the nearby Waffle House and Mill. Not quite as nice, but served its purpose very nicely! I met a couple of my NCT ladies there this week five or so years on and it brought back memories. Would be lovely to arrange tea at Petersham. x

  3. says

    Kooks is wonderful, I buy all my cake decorating bits there!
    I live in Ham, and when my boys were little would pop over to Marble Hill Park on the ferry, 2 children, I dog, 3 bikes and the ferryman would only charge for me! 20p!
    It was heavenly
    Jude x

  4. says

    Ren, it is fabulous, and it is my local cafe, I often meet friends for a coffee and cake, and I actually don’t think it’s any more expensive then other places nearby, but that’s Richmond for you.
    Helen is right to mention Ham House which is also wonderful, and has a superb kitchen garden. If you’re planning a trip in future, you could also watch a few chukas at Ham Polo!
    (Now I’m looking forward to going home next week, though I’ll miss the Breton Seafood :-)
    And should you be visiting Richmond during term time do get in touch, I’m always happy to leap on my bike and meet at The Nurseries.
    Jude x

    • Ren says

      Hi Jude, how lovely to live so close by. The kitchen garden at Ham House sounds wonderful too. We should definitely arrange a meet up at Petersham Nurseries, perhaps when Karen is over? Ren x

  5. says

    I love Petersham Nurseries.

    A favourite afternoon out is to catch the tube to Richmond, shop at Kooks Unlimited, walk along the river and have tea at either Petersham or Ham House, hop on the foot ferry and walk back along the otherside of the river.

    • Ren says

      Haven’t been to Kooks! And haven’t tried the ferry – so that’s two new things to try next time. Thanks for the comment x