Restaurant Review: Petersham Nurseries

Experience fine food with a side of horticulture at this verdant venue

Petersham Nurseries can serve a number of dating needs: the “I don’t want to look like I’m trying too hard” date, the “I really want to impress them” date or the “I want to make sure there’s something to do” date. We enjoyed the “I really want to impress them” version, but the other two options work equally well.

Petersham is very close to Richmond Park and the National Trust’s Ham House. It’s slightly tricky to get to but it’s well worth the trip. We drove there, but you can get a train to Richmond and have a nice stroll to the restaurant. Once there, it’s hard to decide whether it’s really a nursery or a restaurant and tea shop. The reality is that it’s more of an eatery, so if you hate gardening, don’t be deterred because the eating experience is wonderful; however, if you’re more interested in plants, there are quite a few for sale and the restaurant and tea shop are actually located in enormous greenhouses, decked out with plenty of greenery. If, like me, you enjoy both, you’re in heaven! The only other thing worth knowing is that, with the exception of the Summer Supper Club, it’s not usually open in the evenings. There are two sittings for lunch at the weekend, and we went for the earlier, quieter sitting at 12.30. It started to get very busy at 3.

In a nutshell, Petersham Nurseries’ food philosophy is to create delicious menus using seasonal produce with a light Italian influence. We had a set menu which consisted of three courses, a glass of rose-petal-flavoured prosecco and a bottle of house wine. While we waited for the first course we were served up some fried polenta with chilli and salami; if, like me, you’ve had bad polenta experiences in the past, suspend your disbelief and try these delicious little cubes. Our starters were beef carpaccio with mammole artichokes, rocket and parmesan, and risotto with morelles and wild garlic. The carpaccio melted in the mouth whilst the risotto was light and creamy. Main courses were West Country lamb with English quinoa, grilled Romana courgettes, artichokes and salsa verde, and grilled poussin marinated with oregano and lemon, served with chickpeas and labneh. The lamb was perfect and pink, and the poussin was excellent. I’m not going to lie, quinoa is mentioned more than once on the menu, but all the dishes were well balanced and tasty – no sense of unnecessary worthiness at all.

Our desserts were mango with lime sorbet and viola flowers, and chocolate pot with hazelnut ice cream. The mango with lime sorbet won the prize for the prettiest dish, and I’d love to know where they get their mangoes from – definitely none of the stringy, hard, inedible specimens that you get at the supermarket here!

If you decide to visit Petersham Nurseries for afternoon tea or a light lunch, there’s a wide range of cakes, sandwiches and snacks with a variety of tea/coffee options – a perfect place to stop before or after a walk around Richmond Park or along the river.

As you can probably tell, we loved it. Although not cheap, the food was beautifully presented and delicious. The service was friendly whilst not being obsequious. What’s not to like? I’d certainly go again.

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