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Posts Tagged ‘Petersham Nurseries’

Not wishing to over-egg the pudding, there’ll be no more wedding talk after this post, I promise! In my defence, this isn’t about our wedding but our friends’, who chose to do something a little different, somewhere quite special when they got married in October.

M and E wanted to keep it small, intimate and low-key but didn’t want to miss out on any of the indulgence you really ought to afford yourself on your big day. The result was a highly personal registry office ceremony in Richmond, followed by a brisk walk along the river to Petersham Nurseries and then a big house party.

Pass through the gateway to Petersham Nurseries and you feel like you’ve walked into a page of Homes and Garden magazine. It’s an idyllic oasis just a short step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. This English country garden of old oozes elegance, is über-photogenic and enchanting.

Arriving early, there was time to explore the nursery, bask in the autumn sunshine and relax in the teahouse before they were ready for us. The restaurant is housed in one of the Victorian greenhouses within the nursery and as you walk through the door you’ll be instantly astonished by the impeccable attention to detail and decadence. Yes, you’re walking on a gravel floor more suited to your wellies than your stilettos but you’ll definitely want to dress up for the occasion.

Surrounded by plants, stunning candelabras, antique dressers, crockery and textiles and seated at chic mismatch tables and chairs complete with price tags should you wish to take one home with you, it’s easy to see why Petersham Nurseries has such a good reputation and is the place to be seen for ladies who lunch. Which girl wouldn’t want to experience this fairy tale place?

Serving a group of 18, it was understandable that the menu was short, though no less interesting than the full weekly menu; a selection of antipasti style starters followed by a choice of three mains and two desserts or cheese. Head chef, Skye Gyngell, uses local produce combined with authentic ingredients to create a menu with a very definite Italian slant, perhaps influenced somewhat by the nursery’s Italian owners.

To whet our appetites we were brought pane carasau (a wafer thin Sardinian bread) with olive oil before we moved onto the starters; sharing plates of buffalo mozzarella with roast artichoke, seasonal vegetables with bagna cauda (an Italian dip made with olive oil, garlic and anchovies), bruschetta with San Daniele ham and tomatoes, and bruschetta with wild mushrooms and garlic. With such good quality ingredients, there’s no need to doing anything fussy, and indeed these dishes weren’t over-complicated, just well-executed.

     

There was a meat, a fish and a vegetarian option for the main course as well as a child-friendly linguine with parmesan. Sadly no one opted for the endive gratin, mache (lamb’s lettuce) and walnut dressing but there was an equal split between the polpette (large meatballs) with fine beans and polenta and the sea bass with roasted fennel and tomatoes, Roseval potatoes, olives and capers. Impressive portion sizes, perfectly cooked fish, good, balanced flavours – very satisfying plates of food.

          

Not having a sweet tooth, I went for the cheese, a tangy pecorino with Muscatel grapes (but surprisingly no biscuits or bread!), a couple went for the chocolate fondant with crème fraiche but the biggest hit was the boozy pud; raspberries with mascarpone and Savoiardi biscuits heavily soaked in grappa.

A special mention must go to the Prosecco and wines which were of a very high standard. The wine was chosen before-hand by M and E so we didn’t get to see a list but from our experience I’m sure you wouldn’t go far wrong with any bottle you plump for.

Nothing wrong with the service either; friendly, smiling staff were attentive but not imposing, service during our leisurely four hour lunch was relaxed and there was no rush to get us out.

We did finally make our exit through the gift shop (do so at your own risk, you’re bound to be tempted by the goodies!) heart-warmed and left with a lingering sense of delight from a visit to a place whose memory is sure to bring a smile to our faces for some time to come.

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Beautiful, dreamy, elegant, exquisite, summery – altogether aesthetically pleasing. Fitting descriptions of Skye Gyngell’s latest book, How I Cook.

Where her previous two books have focussed on the food from her kitchen at Petersham Nurseries Cafe in Richmond, this book, as the title suggests, is all about the food she wants to cook and eat at home; on her own, with her family or with friends. In tune with this are the ingredients for the recipes, which many home cooks will already have in the cupboard or could easily get hold of. She doesn’t stray, however, from the stress she has always placed on eating with the seasons.

Simplicity is the key to the recipes in How I Cook. Skye wants us to be able to enjoy stress-free cooking without comprising on the food, which should both look and taste stunning; whether feeding the troops in the evening, having a relaxed family meal at the weekend or entertaining.

The book has quite a unique structure. It is broken down into sections such as breakfast, Sunday lunch, midweek dinners, late-night suppers and celebration food and within each section there are several themed menu suggestions – Mediterranean flavours, retro dinner, prepare ahead, elegant and easy, midweek special or birthday celebration. The menu suggestions are just that – suggestions. Skye is clear to state that there are no hard and fast rules – the menus are dishes which she feels complement each other and will no doubt help a less confident cook understand how to pull together a balanced meal (in terms of flavours, accompaniments and courses).

Throughout the book there are helpful cookery tips, tricks, skills and advice. The introductions to the recipes provide an interesting backdrop to the menus; Skye shares a childhood memory, a family story or some food history which are all great insights into her life, work and food philosophies.

The book has an awful lot going for it and is quite simply a joy to read. I like a book that gets me drooling, that sends my brain into overdrive conjuring up my next week of meals, or simply expands my culinary horizons. It doesn’t do these things for me, but it is most definitely heart-warming.

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