Petersham Nurseries Cafe 1

Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey , London, TW10 7AB

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SquareMeal Review of Petersham Nurseries Cafe

Give yourself time for lunch at the Nurseries. In our opinion it’s a kooky, lovely place, though getting there isn’t easy – driving is discouraged, public transport is slow, and once there, service, though gracious, can be ditzy. It has been years since Skye Gyngell moved on, and the kitchen has never scaled the same heights since. Still, with many ingredients sourced from the beautiful walled garden of Petersham House and a River Café-esque team in the kitchen, you can expect up-to-the-minute seasonal cooking. Langoustine might be teamed with a colourful salad of dandelion, pistachio, fennel and nasturtiums, while ‘today’s game’ could appear with an autumnal assembly of horn of plenty, cavolo nero and polenta. Prices are high, yet this is a unique spot. If time or budget are important, try the tea room in the next-door glasshouse, which has great simple food at half the cost and without the wait.

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7.4

Food & Drink: 7.9

Service: 7.0

Atmosphere: 7.9

Value: 6.4

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 2.0

Charlie L. 30 October 2013

A Tuesday lunchtime visit a deux, after a long walk along the river climbing over storm-felled trees. Hype and high expectations ringing in our ears, even though Gyngell is not in the kitchen nowadays. Friendly greeting amidst the antique and repro French benches, dressers and artefacts; dirt floors swept and jaded tables and chairs prepared by white shirted waiting staff, we were surrounded by colourful images of Indian deities and hoping for something divine to hit our plates. No visible Maitre 'd and sadly no tangible atmosphere or ambiance. Just 5 tables in use all afternoon. Simple yet tasty food. Interesting cauliflower risotto; tangy with citrus overtones; over-salted pork belly, mildly bland chocolate torte. Disappointingly small portion sizes were bulked out by home baked bread and fabulous oil and the A La Carte menu is just TOO expensive. There was no verve or flexibility for a non meat-eater on the Set Menu and £21 for a mixed vegetable dish in my wife's eyes is gastronomic suicide for a proprietor. The wine list is predominantly Italian and that too defies economic sense. The onus seems to be on making everything on the premises absolutely premium prices yet seemingly neither the restaurant or the tearoom has the substance to warrant it. The potential is absolutely there. Make it better value and the Skye's the limit.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Theodore L. silver reviewer 23 March 2012

Fantastic food and service in relaxed surroundings. Best when the weather is good! Definitely worth the trip!

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 5.0

Daphne D. 25 January 2012

Anyone who complains that finding this place is difficult and that parking is almost non existent is completely missing the point of why it is such a special restaurant! So wonderful to find such a delicious restaurant in a rustic setting – like having caviar and good wine and cheese at a picnic in the woods – the contrast making the experience that much more wonderful. We have been here many times, with our two daughters (now age 11 and 15) over the years and have always had a fantastic experience. The food always delicious, sometimes sublime, and the desserts heavenly. Our girls like real food and have always experiemented with flavours and they have loved everything, particularly the beef fillet, the scallops, the lobster pasta and the chocolate pudding cake.We have enjoyed everything immensely. The flavours are robust and always complement the dish that is prepared, imaginative but gutsy. Simple but complex – and the quality of the ingredients is always top. The buffalo mozzarella is absolutely fantastic, as are all the cheeses, particularly memorable was a blue dolcelatte served with a cherry compote. This is a restaurant for people who really love food, not overly fussy, too many ingredient on the plate type of food It is reminiscent of the very best lunches you can find in hill top towns in Italy, – with confident cooking (and usually obscenely slow service, which when on holiday never seems to elicit complaints like it does when you are at a restaurant at home..) bringing out the best flavours in the ingredients. Yes, the service at times can be a little uneven, but this is rare. And even when it is they are still charming and kind and seem like they care. I note that they now have a booking systmem which staggers reservations carefully so the small kitchen can cope with more ease. The dirt floor shop that you walk through to get to the restaurant is a visual treat and fun to browse. Christmas time is particularly magical and there are lovely ornaments and gift items on sale, some expensive and some not. Then a bracing walk down by the Thames is perfect after such a lunch, if you are feeling ambitious you can walk all the way to Ham House which has recently been renovated and is a visual delight. We have taken many friends and family from overseas here and it has provided a great venue for a memorable wonderful lunch and day “out” of town. PS The parking situation is not really as bad as they make it out to be. Most times when they say the lot is full it is not!!

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Chris70 platinum reviewer 20 June 2011

We’ve often wandered across the park and had tea and cake at the café, and looked longingly at the always booked adjacent green house. The lack of evening opening always hampering our booking, but it is all in the back of a green house in a garden centre, so one does have to make allowances. In fact in deference to its rustic charm the restaurant is the café and the café is the tea house. The setting is certainly a large amount of the appeal of the restaurant, dirt floors, waiters in wellies, old church chairs, and old worn tables that have seen a lot of life. This is all in the back of the main green house which is half the garden centre shop and the rear half is the café, where you happily sit amongst the foliage. The rustic feel translated into the food, with good hearty portions, coked impeccably. For starters we had lobster tagliolini and speck risotto, a super succulent lobster claw with the pasta and the risotto was delicacy creamy with a lemon zing. Mains were veal and poussin, the veal was an almost tagine affair in a bowl full of broth and preserved lemon, the veal super moist and succulent, my critique here would be to add a couple of potatoes as there was a little lack of carbs and a spoon for the broth. The roast poussin, was similarly super moist and cooked with a lovely crisp skin, but again maybe missing a carb element to the plate. Deserts were a chocolate panancotta with caramel sauce, where my only critique here could be that maybe it was a little too big as very heavy and rich, but as I am very greedy I finished it with a flourish. The lemon tart was also superb, crumbly crust and just the right amount of lemon sharpness. Service was super friendly and efficient, orders were taken promptly and first course arrive within 20 minutes. The whole meal only took an hour and a half, so all quick enough without being rushed. The bill split £103.5 for food and £26.85 for drinks (3 glasses wine, water and coffee) with a further 12.5% added for service, which for a Michelin stared restaurant, or indeed any restaurant serving this quality of food, it represents great value. The only down side, is that it is a bit difficult to reach, we had to drive (hence small drinks bill) which due to limited parking they do actually discourage and as I mentioned it is a lunch time only venue, so limits our desire to return very soon.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 2.0

The Taster 24 April 2011

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.

Food & Drink: 1.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 0.0

Michael S. 07 November 2010

We had been before and really enjoyed the lunch. But on this occasion, we went to the Petersham Nurseries Café Summer which they have at certain times of the year with 4 other friends and we were hugely disappointed. We were seated and asked if we'd like a Prosecco to begin with (as that was included in the £85 pp 4 course set menu, food only….!) and that was the first and last time we had any interaction with the staff. It seemed from that point forward, the only time we could get anyones attention was when they were travelling to and from the kitchen. Getting their attention to order wine and not least some water for the table was becoming frustrating by this time. The entrée came out which I can only describe as the most boring and bland entrée I think I've seen, especially for this money. Strips of a root vegetable with a blob of hollandaise sauce – that was it. The main, a Bouillabaisse which presented and seasoned well but again a small serving really and the fish wasn't great and absolutely full of bones. Cheese; a slice of blue and we had to ask for some bread. Dessert was a tart that came out in various portion sizes on the 6 plates for our table. One plate had 2 thin slices which they must have thought were just too thin to try and serve individually so they pushed them together on the plate which then made it rather obviously larger than the other servings at our table! Where's Gordon Ramsey when you need him?? Again having to grab one of the service staff walking past our table to order a dessert wine was incredibly frustrating. And finally, almost 3 hours later, we had to ask for the bill as our taxi was now waiting outside (parking is very difficult and not at all encouraged). We told the waiter that we were not paying the “optional service” charge. He never asked why, offered any apology or had the slightest interest as to why. So we told him anyway – that we had almost no service whatsoever and were largely disappointed overall. To top it all off when we asked for my wife’s coat the lady kindly held it for my wife to put on but said absolutely nothing in the process nor as we walked out the door! We left completely frustrated, still hungry, disappointed and a feeling of being “ripped off” for this £85 per person 4 course set menu, particularly as we had said to our friends how much we enjoyed it the last time we went for lunch.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

chris J. bronze reviewer 27 July 2009

The British Psyche is a strange beast, what other country would offer fine dining in a garden centre, with hunter clad waitresses and dirt underfoot as a unique dining experience? If it were America we would no doubt have snow stapled to the ceiling and waitresses dressed as dwarves. The wife and I, accompanied by our two small children, have had a few very enjoyable feasts under the glass ceilings of the hothouse. Usually, we go with friends as a pre-christmas treat, having had a stomping walk in Richmond Park. The restaurant is fairly close packed but it is remarkable in that you can take your dog with you (as we do). If your kids are the restless type there's plenty to keep them amused; whether it is digging beneath the table or running amuck amongst the pricey nick-nacks in the shop. The food is very good, usually accompanied by a fair selection of wines. The atmosphere is convivial, though do try to get there early as they tend to run out of the popular dishes before too long. The restaurant really comes into it's own around Christmas, and the atmosphere is never commercial. I understand the nurseries are under threat of closure, they should, in my opinion be retained as a uniquely British experience, far away from the high street. Go visit. Update – July 27th 2009 – I read at the Weekend that the restaurant now has full permission so it is officially ‘saved’, that's good news!

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