Off Petersham Road
If you’ve ever driven between Kingston and Richmond you’ve probably passed the entrance to the Petersham Nurseries Café without even knowing it. Its discreet location adds to the slightly ethereal feel of the place. Petersham Nurseries, even in the stark, frostbitten cold of a quite decisive winter, has a spellbound quality to it. A garden centre? Well, yes – but one that most definitely sits outside of the box. Its stunning location with views up to Richmond Hill, combined with collections of gorgeous plants and homeware, make it the kind of place you could while away hours in.
The real gem at Petersham Nurseries though is the restaurant, which folds out at the back of the centre’s main greenhouse. Quite a find to stumble across, as you browse through the antiques, linen and cut glass at the front of the building. Dogs are welcome in the restaurant and the tea house, so staggering your afternoon with a moreish lunch followed by a stroll in Richmond Park is quite doable. The restaurant is currently open from Wednesday to Sunday lunchtimes (it unfortunately doesn’t open for an evening sitting). We settled into our seats and were promptly handed the recent introduction of a set lunch menu. For £27.50, the set menu offers diners three courses, with the option to go for a lighter lunch with a two course choice, priced at £22.50.
We opted for the grilled sardines and the ravioli to start – two very contrasting dishes. The sardines were wonderfully grilled, fleshy and full of flavour with a good spoonful of chimmichuri to accompany them, whilst the ravioli, stuffed with chard and cow’s milk ricotta was dainty and delicate. Our main dishes of squid and oxtail continued to wow on the flavour front. The squid, which had been slow cooked in red wine with black olives was comfortingly tender, and looked defiantly autumnal with its dark plum, wine-dyed flesh. A creamy yellow dollop of aioli brought the plate to life and added an indulgent flavour to the dish. The oxtail meanwhile, was a real winter warmer, finely spiked with cloves and a dash of sherry.
Skye Gyngell heads up the kitchen at the Petersham Nurseries Café, and her talent for pairing flavours has earned the restaurant an enviable reputation. Our puddings confirmed this, with the chocolate & hazelnut cake and its chocolate sorbet tasting suitably adult. It was the dish of roasted quince and rhubarb that really summed up Gyngell’s cooking though: subtle and beautifully crafted, but oh so very good. Gyngell’s delicate approach to cooking leaves plenty of opportunity for her flavour combinations to woo your taste buds. If it’s possible for your palate to be romanced, this is the place to try your luck.
**Petersham Nurseries Cafe:** Petersham Nurseries, Off Petersham Road, Surrey, TW10 7AG. Tel: 020 8605 3627. Weds – Fri: lunches only and set menu only, priced at £27.50 for 3 courses, and £22.50 for 2 courses. Sat – Sun: lunches only and a la carte only. These arrangements will run until Thurs 9th April 2009, after which time a la carte only will be offered every day.
Please note that Petersham Nurseries has been granted a Temporary Planning Consent by Richmond Council to continue to operate as a garden centre with a cafe for the next 12 months. They will only be granted permanent permission if more people travel by means other than car, particularly during the busy Spring and Summer months. To find out how to get to Petersham Nurseries by walking, cycling, ferry etc, please visit: http://www.petershamnurseries.com.
**Reviewer:** Helenka Bednar