petersham nurseries, richmond

as many of you will know, i am a huge fan of skye gyngell’s book a year in my kitchen. she cooks at petersham nurseries in richmond but as the restaurant is only open at lunchtimes it has taken me a while to get there and try her cooking for myself.

the setting is wonderful – we walked along the river from richmond station and then explored the garden centre which is very like a secret walled garden with plants piled up on tables and tumbling into the earth pathways, before presenting ourselves at the greenhouse which houses the restaurant seating area.

the walls of the greenhouse’s old-fashioned structure is lined with carpets and rugs which help keep the heat in on cold wintery days. the floor is earthen, tables and furniture are simple and mismatched and the plants, fruit trees and flowers scattered around the place create a magical feeling (look at these lovely photos).

the menu is short – a choice of five dishes for each course – which is helpful as so many of them sound wonderful and we all struggled to make our choices.

our starters were particularly carefully negotiated so that we could try each other’s food. julia’s grilled sardines were my favourite – served atop slices of heirloom tomatoes and dressed with lemon oil and a herby salsa, with the oily fish flavours were beautifully balanced by the zingyness of the lemon and herbs.

skye’s approach to lifting dishes with fresh and herby flavours is one i love and in my dish the zing came courtesy of a pounded chilli dressing. this was sprinkled around a salad of burrata (a mozzarella which is enriched with cream), deep-fried globe artichokes and agretti (a chive-like herb). again, the balance of flavours was beautiful although i did find the cheese a little rich as the portion was more generous than i was expecting! still, this meant that david’s agnolotti (a stuffed pasta) with an intense flavour of braised fennel, anchovy and lemon thyme, managed to escape without me eating too much of it.

we all chose meaty main courses – a meltingly tender fillet of beef which was served with the most deliciously sweet slow-cooked courgettes and a light horseradish cream was david’s choice, while julia and i both opted for roasted pork belly. this came with fabulous crackling which had been rubbed with fennel seeds, and a simply flavoured stew of borlotti beans and cima di rapa.

our puddings were a little less interesting – david’s ginger crème caramel had not a hint of ginger to it and while the chocolate mousse that julia and i had was nice enough, it was only the candied orange slice served with it that lifted it beyond something i’d make myself.

and i think that’s the crux of things – the food is lovely with fabulous fresh and simple flavours which are very accessible to the competent home cook (although few of us have skye’s imagination when it comes to pairing flavours and ingredients) but this just serves to reinforce the fact that it is expensive. as does the very casual setting.

starters were £12 and upwards and meat/fish mains were c£25 (the veggie option which was a pea and potato curry was £17), with puddings c£7. this is a lot of money for me and as a result, although i enjoyed everything i ate, i won’t be rushing back. instead i shall settle myself down with the many wonderful recipes in skye’s book (and those she publishes each week in the independent) and focus on perfecting some of them for myself.

petersham nurseries

off petersham road, richmond, surrey tw10 7ag

telephone: 020 8605 3627

some skye gyngell recipes:

roasted vegetables with goats cheese and smashed tomatoes (march 2008)

smoked haddock chowder (december 2007)

peppers piedmontese (september 2007)

slow roasted tomatoes (june 2007)