Café Restaurant, Petersham Nurseries

Tel: +44 (0) 20 8605 3627
Address: Off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7AG
Cuisine Type: Rustic French, Eclectic
nearest tube station Richmond

Not that I had any choice in the matter, but I’ve always loved having an October birthday. Something about the crisp air, falling leaves and the autumnal harvest has always struck a primal chord with me. So when hubby not-so-subtly hinted we visit Petersham Nurseries to celebrate my forthcoming approach into adulthood (in theory), I suspected those fuzzy feelings would be wonderfully reinforced.

I’d heard that Petersham Nurseries was, intriguingly, a plant nursery/home interiors shop/restaurant/café/celebrity haunt (Madonna was rumoured to have bought the table from which she ate), so while I was excited, I was also a bit cynical about how it could all work well. But a few steps in, it was clear that this operation was being run with a keen eye and inspired vision.

Settling into our rustic table (I’m such a sucker for the charm of mismatched furniture) – gloriously situated within the nursery’s main greenhouse – I adored that we were cleverly surrounded by seasonal plants, trees and vibrant gourds. Almost just like being outside without having to worry about the weather. There are so many outdoorsy touches about – I found myself spinning around to soak in everything, and predictably had to check out the toilets, too, just to make sure the cozy aesthetic extended everywhere.

On to the beautifully handwritten menu, which changes daily, and is perfectly sized to offer a simply tantalising array of homemade dishes using the freshest produce grown on site or carefully sourced. This means that if dishes run out, they run out – a small price to pay in my view for premium, hand-picked ingredients.

Begging to be sampled, we started with an aperitif of the rose petal bellini (£6.00 and worth every penny), sparkling wine with rose cordial and crystallised rose petals. Perfect, and so fitting given our surroundings. Happily sipping away, we mused over starters, which ranged from £8 to a rather hefty £16 for crab salad with lemon mayonnaise. I tried savoury pumpkin with sage, polenta and mascarpone, while hubby drooled over a steaming bowl of Cavolo Nero (black cabbage) with white bean and veg soup. Delicious.

Main dishes (£11.50 – £19.50) included a petite and very enticing selection, including two vegetarian options. Globe artichokes with potatoes, girolles mushrooms, mizuna salad and mustard greens seemed to be plucked straight from the garden, while Peter Gott’s saddleback pork chops with sprout tops and tangy apple relish were another clear winner.

Five or so puddings are sweetly displayed on small chalkboards throughout the space – we shared creamy prickly pear ice cream, but you can count on unusual chocolate and fruity dessert tempters to satisfy any lingering cravings. The coffee is particularly yummy, too.

Service is well timed, warm and attentive – the staff refreshingly seems to enjoy interacting with diners. One factor could be that, with meals only available lunchtimes from Wednesdays to Sundays, burnout must be quite low. Or perhaps working here feels like hanging out in your back garden.

While not cheap, the pure ingredients, liberal portions and peaceful environment make the outing entirely guilt-free. You could easily while away the afternoon nibbling away, and milling around the shop and garden area. The Thames footpath is also nearby if you fancy working off your meal walking along the river. Also an ideal place for the kids (they’ll be happily distracted), and dogs seem to be encouraged. Don’t forget your Wellies!