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|Address:||Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey, London TW10 7AG|
|Tel:||020 8940 5230|
|Price: £63.00||Wine: £18.00||Champagne: £60.00|
|Opening Hours:||Tues-Sun 12N-2.45pm|
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The effect of the Michelin star rating system has never been so apparent to me as it was this month, when we had the opportunity to go to several great restaurants in the same week. Once you have a star, expectations are suddenly much higher and a customer who just yesterday would have been very pleased and satisfied is today grumpy and demanding. The pressure must go up exponentially, and in fact one wonders whether it's desirable to have a star at all, when you could continue to impress your regulars and newcomers with the same food without the accolade. But then again there's the recognition, always appreciated by anyone who's ever slaved away in a back kitchen, and of course the higher prices. All this as a prelude to say I felt for Skye Glynell and her Petersham Nurseries Cafe, which won their one star earlier this year and are likely to be groaning under the strain. If they aren't, they sure seemed like it. The setting is gorgeous, a lovely 20-minute walk from Richmond station (it didn't hurt that it was the first day of this incredible weather we're having so that the sunlight twinkling on the Thames on the way over was just magical) and rustic tables and chairs in the greenhouse. They were serving a subtle and delicious concoction of rose petals/syrup and prosecco that augured well, as did the starters which expertly melded different tastes and consistencies. The experience went downhill from there however, starting with the long wait for our mains, and I would like to make clear that I prefer a long interval between starters and mains especially when you have all afternoon as we did. But the wait was so long that I started to feel a bit alarmed, as in, “Have they run out of the ingredients for our dish”? When the food did arrive I wondered whether I might have been half-right as it was served with some confusion, and despite the fact that two of our party ordered the same dish they looked different and were served in significantly different proportions, which is something I don't think I've ever seen before in a starred restaurant. Indeed as we left I glanced at a diner at the next table who not only had a different proportion of fish, but a much larger (and rather excessive) dollop of sauce. I don't know what I can say to that except that honestly, I was embarrassed for the kitchen. The desserts were delicious but they couldn’t serve espresso apparently because they don't have a machine. How very, very odd. The service was fine and friendly but not at Michelin-star level. And finally the price – just too, too much for this meal I’m sorry to have to say. My recommendation to this restaurant is let the star go, lower your prices accordingly and go back to delighting and surprising your guests with their great find.