I AM flicking through Google trying to find a review of Petersham Nurseries since Damian Clisby previously of Hix Soho took over the kitchen. We all know this was where Skye Gyngell made her name before decamping to Somerset House some five years ago but it is a bit tough on the poor lad to find that none of the usual suspects can be bothered to pop out, admittedly this is beyond the district line, but even so.
Usually the presumption here is that it is an uber foodie place (it even had a Michelin star with Skye) but there are two things wrong with that simplistic assertion. Firstly it is the most beautiful restaurant, set in a greenhouse which might have been decorated by an antique dealer who married a florist. Even in February it is wonderfully eccentric, like eating on a film set between scenes. We kept our coats on.
In contrast the food was full of Italian sunshine dishes notable for the rarely found leaves like puntarella and castelroso. The latter came with blood oranges.
The puntarella came like this with fat anchovies underneath…
The second reason it is not really Michelin territory is that it is Italian through and through. At this stage of its evolution there are enough locals who use it for special occasions to underwrite its survival. TripAdviser has it as the 15th best restaurant in Richmond. Ho ho. I will just say that the TA algorithm throws up a fish and chip shop and somewhere called Pigs Ears Beer Cellar ahead of the nursery. It is lunch only so you can go to the Glasshouse for dinner if you feel like overdoing it.
Here is the risotto…with pumpkin
Oysters I will say came with pickled alexander buds but at £3.50 each, even I baulked. Alexanders have largely been replaced by celery in modern times, the Romans brought them here and it is sometimes called horse parsley, because horses love it.
Outside you can pick up a few window box fillers from the nursery. The tea room adjacent is currently closed for a refurb…in fact the whole project masterminded by Gael & Francesco Boglione since the turn of the century is a triumph, a story you can follow here. On current form I would say it was worth a detour, quite a large one, even if there is some penance in driving along the awful Petersham Road.
In the past there have been grumbles about the pricing but the attention to detail in the sourcing for me makes them forgivable, the most expensive items today at just over £25 are squab from Anjou and served with red cabbage and scorzanera (black salsify and for a full appraisal see here) or slow cooked octopus braised in Barolo neither of which you are likely to find being attempted elsewhere. Clisby and his team have that very Italian virtue, of not doing too much and just letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
Petersham Nursery, Church Lane (signed posted ‘St Peter’s Church’),Off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7AB
Tel: 020 8332 8665 http://www.petershamnurseries.com