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 – 2.45pmMy 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?