Our last week in London was a very emotional one, despite the stiff upper lip required to be true Londoners. After four and a half years living in this amazing city it was difficult to let go, and as our plane to Canada lifted through the grey ceiling of clouds we looked down for a final time at the crossword pattern of green fields below.
Nestled amongst all that green is the Petersham Nurseries café where we spent our last day in London. My parents stayed with us for our final week and my Mum had always wanted to go the nursery’s Michelin starred café, made famous by the innovative cooking and style of chef Skye Gyngell (she’s left now but the kitchen is still up to scratch).
The place offers a real slice of England, combining the dirt floor charm of the country with the genteel sophistication of a London restaurant.
We tip toed carefully down a muddy lane just outside Richmond-upon-Thames and found the Petersham Nurseries Cafe hidden amongst a church and overgrown fields full of dairy cows.
Inside the gates you’ll find rows and rows of flowers, trees and shrubs surrounding a large Victorian styled greenhouse full of antiques, knick knacks and the smell of delicious cooking.
Our waiter showed us to our table, a low slung antique affair covered in mismatched crockery. Petersham Nurseries Cafe was a trend setter back when shabby chic style was just coming into fashion.
Everything is recycled or reworked and you sit surrounded by old doors, windows, wheelbarrows and portraits.
It’s like a colonial fever dream with pictures of Indian gods, moustachioed English officers and rampant greenery all competing for attention.
Now the food.
Everything is seasonal, even if the season lasts a few days or weeks.
The kitchen at Petersham Nurseries Cafe sources everything from as close by as possible and needless to say it is all organic, fresh and particular.
Mum and I started with poached egg served on a bed of English asparagus. My Dad went with a delicious risotto while Carmen had scallops on a bed of fresh greens.
To drink we ordered a very tasty bottle of southern Italian red wine and sipped it slowly, relishing the calming atmosphere of the nursery. Loamy smells of earth and plants hang in the air and mix with your palate, it’s all quite primal.
The café is a believer in slow food so there is a bit of a wait between courses so this is no place for a hurried snack.
The mains came out and we feasted our eyes before our forks even touched the goodies.
Dad and I went for slow roasted lamb on a bed of chickpeas and fresh beans. The lamb was just right, chewy and succulent on the outside and soft on the inside. Carmen had a monkfish stew which came wrapped in paper and Mum had silk handkerchief pasta with pine nuts. There was not much conversation as we ate; a very good sign.
After we settled the bill we took a stroll through the greenhouse and admired all the flowers and knick knacks on display.
It was nice to have a moment of pause before all the craziness of our travels began. As we ambled back along the country lanes toward home I soaked up the atmosphere of churchyards, light rain, green fields, and a classic Jaguar whizzing by on a red brick lined road.
I don’t suppose you could get a more British last day than that.
What you need to know
How to get there: Petersham Nurseries Cafe is on Petersham Road near the town of Richmond in Surrey. We went on a train that took 30 minutes from Clapham Junction, then a bus that was around a 10 minute journey.
When to go: Petersham Nurseries Cafe is open for lunch Tuesdays to Sundays from midday. Go any time and in any weather as the cafe is inside a greenhouse and has heaters. Bring wellies if it’s raining of course.
How much: Starters at Petersham Nurseries Cafe hover below 15 pounds while mains are between 20 and 30 pounds. There’s a good selection of wines and a dessert menu that sorely tempted us.