Petersham Nurseries Café

Petersham Nurseries Café, Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7AG

The most chic garden centre in Richmond, Surrey with a Michelin star café and perfect karma

Go there for Innovative eclectic food from team of chefs trained by Australia’s Greg Malouf.

Avoid Putting your bag on the floor (which is a traditional earth floor) as you are in a greenhouse. Trying to book dinner: it’s a lunch-time only venue but does have a supper club in the summer.

Is it worth the calories? All of it is worth it!  It’s a yes from me (well Amanda Holden was sitting next to us). Inspiring starters mains and desserts using seasonal thoughtfully sourced ingredients.

Tips: Book in advance for the restaurant. Get there early if you want to park or follow the advice on the nursery website for parking options as its very limited on site.  Leave enough time to peruse the shop and nursery and soak up the atmosphere.

Unusually for a Michelin-starred restaurant, Petersham is such an unusual location that we have to talk about that first, and the food second! This venue has it all. It’s in a unique setting, it oozes shabby chic and the moment you enter this calm, celestial oasis, a sense of wellbeing ensues. There are many nurseries and garden centres that offer a café along with shopping and furniture but none match this.  It’s clear that the people behind the business are well-financed and travelled and ooze style. Dotted around the nursery are statues from Asia and other atmospheric props like large ceramic pots, barrows and sculptures. The chairs and tables in the café are antiques from Indonesia. It’s a quirky yet glamorous with a unique charm.

When the nursery came on the market Francesco and Gael Boglione decided to buy as it was at the bottom of their garden and they feared what developers may do. After a restoration programme it is now a successful business, selling a stunning selection of garden plants, Italian glass, gardening equipment, home décor, crockery and shabby chic furniture. The des res location in Richmond means regulars include local celebrities, yummy mummies and the well heeled.

Opening an award-winning restaurant was not part of the original plan but to offer a proper cup of coffee and cake was.

So it’s perhaps ironic that it’s the restaurant that gets media attention. Skye Gyngell opened the kitchen, and a Michelin star and several cookbooks later she has now moved on. She set the bar high but her replacement, chef Greg Malouf, equals her reputation.  The ethos remains: dishes are made with seasonal organic produce and it’s the simplicity with which they are served that make them so endearing.

On my first visit with Skye Gyngell cooking we were served crisp flatbreads with olive oil. The starter was a Carpaccio of smoked haddock with a lemon and olive oil dressing and a salad of shaved fennel, chilli, lemon and parsley.  Stewed oxtail served on velvety mashed potatoes followed. This was cooked to perfection, the meat falling from the bones with just a nudge. For dessert we shared a pannacotta with fresh rosemary and honey, which was rich, subtly scented and a perfect finish. Our meal lived up to expectations and I am glad that we ate here before this talented chef moved on.

Award winning chef and writer Greg Malouf had already done a few guest shifts at Petersham and was looking for a new culinary adventure so agreed to come for spring and summer season and he left in 2012 as planned. However the team he bought with him from Australia have stayed on and are tweaking the menu with their own innovative twists. With its fantastic reputation, fairytale setting and proximity to London combined there is always a queue of talented chefs keen to cook here.

A return visit was hastily added to see if the magic was still at Petersham. Our waiter assured us that Greg Malouf was in the kitchen and we went in to lunch with high hopes. Fresh white bread and a small dish of Zisola olive oil came with our drinks.This single estate oil is made especially for the nursery from a blend of four different varieties of olives; it’s quite delicious and on sale at £16.50 for a 500ml bottle. The bread was good but looked commercially made to me and on enquiry the waiter was happy to say that it came from the Flour Power City organic bakery in London. We shared a starter of summer bollito misto salad with salse verde dressing. This take on a classic Italian mixed poached meat was delightful: the poultry was perfectly cooked, the beef was rare and tender. The leaves wrapped around the mixed meats and were coated with salsa verde. The portions here are generous so sharing courses is a possibility without feeling left out.

For mains we had plaice coated in chickpea flour (ceci) and sesame batter served with a cabbage salad and tartare sauce with preserved lemon and a double lamb chop with Persian aubergine and organic chickpeas. The lamb was pink and cooked to perfection, the aubergine had been roasted and pulled from the skin and worked really well with the large, mouth-wateringly soft chickpeas. A large red chilli nestled in the dish, which gave a hint of heat to the sauce. The lamb was fantastic and won first prize on this visit: the plaice although delicious, couldn’t compete . Pannacotta with vanilla, comice pears and rose petals was beautifully plated and lived up to its image but for me had a little too much gelatine: I prefer a bit more of a wobble in a pannacotta.

Fixed price menus are priced at £24 for 2 courses / £28 for 3 or you can eat a la carte with starters and desserts from £8 and mains from £20.

Just to be clear there are two places to eat in Petersham Nurseries: the Teahouse and the café. The teahouse offers wonderful light meals, extravagant and interesting cakes and coffee – and you don’t need to book. In the summer seating extends outside to a range of mismatched tables. The café is the restaurant and you must book to guarantee a table. You can be lucky though and I rang up on the morning (31st May 2012) and got a table from 12-2. Perfect.

0208 940 5230