Down by the river, a leisurely amble from Richmond, is a somewhat unconventional garden centre. Donning the wellingtons and wandering up narrow, stone walled laneways feels decidedly earthy. And a little bizarre, as despite passing Thames-side water meadows and seemingly forgotten royal palaces, you’re technically stillintheconfinesofLondon.Yet these sometimes muddy laneways are worth the wading, leading you to a thoroughly English horticultural and gastronomic gem.
Petersham Nurseries is a haven of inspiration and a feast for the senses. Found by the grounds of the ever- tranquil Petersham House, you quickly become the proverbial kid in a candy store, wandering around and falling for the plethora of antiques, art, homewares and plants dotted around this Victorian working nursery.
Yet it’s the culinary offerings that really lure in the visitors. Petersham Nurseries has two star foodie attractions; their award winning café and teahouse, both open for lunch from Tuesday to Sunday. The former, nestled inside a light- catching greenhouse, is all about fusing exceptional, naturally sourced produce with English gastronomic traditions and Italian flavours. Alternatively, the teahouse, which also boasts a rather disarming dirt floor, is ideal for patrons hankering after something a little lighter.
In both epicurean settings seasonal ingredients are always used and edible herbs from the Petersham House Walled Kitchen Garden enhance the experience. Each dish is lovingly presented using a range of garden-fresh flora that even the less green thumbed of us would love to grow. While these may act as humble garnishes to the inventive and sometimes unexpected fare they are capable of completely halting conversation. These are the type of dishes you have to stop and admire before you can even think of tucking in.
It’s not just the food that people flock here for. The relaxed, stately setting is pretty spectacular too. During my late summer visit the sight of freshly made strawberry Bellinis, sitting pretty on a marble topped wrought iron table by the café’s entrance, really got me in the culinary mood. Their bubbly, rosy hue blended seamlessly with the vines running up the artfully aged arch behind. The glass roof with its ornate metal framework suggestively reflects the colour and textures of the food below, and the eclectic mix of tables,chairs and antique collectibles filling the greenhouse make the café a space to unwind in.
After a stunning meal of goat’s milk cheese, truffle oil, luscious figs and marigolds (the menu here is the epitome of seasonal, so whenever you visit you’re sure to be in for something different), there is a natural urge to wander through to the shop where a wonderful array of international goods greet you. Girandole chandeliers hang from the roof and urns overflowing with orchids and blooms sit majestically on the console tables below. Large antique French mirrors open up the furniture filled space, making use of the natural light that pours in on even the most overcast of days. The effortless mix of flora and homewares (and stoneware for that matter) leads to drastic thoughts of redecorating,causing you to ponder just how easy it would be to ship an antique wardrobe back across the seas.
And then there’s the nursery – as if your senses hadn’t been sated enough already! Here you can see how the earthy food you so recently gorged on came to be. There are seeds and herbs ripe for planting so you too can make your own flavoursome creations, or at least grow something pretty. Dahlias, foxgloves, cuckooflowers and primroses mix with the quirky willow herb and catchfly, each resplendent in the afternoon sun that sends low shadows over their playful sway.
Petersham Nurseries is an enchanting place where brilliant fare and the beauty of nature join to create a floral, food and art-filled experience to savour.
Taken from issue 1 of Lodestars Anthology, which you can purchase by clicking here.