Richmond – Petersham Nurseries Café

Changer d’air. Quitter la capitale pour Richmond où le temps semble s’adoucir, se ralentir. Se promener sous les arbres, le long de la Tamise. Respirer. Caresser les herbes folles du revers de la main, écouter les parakeets chanter. S’amuser à lancer des galets dans l’eau. Continuez donc la ballade jusqu’à la Petersham Nurseries, la pépinière la plus renommée de la région. Comment vous dire? Si Elle Décoration imaginait un espace dédié aux plantes, ce serait avec ce soupçon de magie. On vient de loin y trouver l’inspiration – l’adresse apparait dans la plupart des guides sur Londres, dont London for lovers.Need a change of scenery? No need to go very far from the capital – Richmond, already, will help you slow down, breathe, relax. Go for a stroll under the trees lining the Thames, take in the peacefulness, the songs of the parakeets flying around, throw a few pebbles in the water. If you have a little time, walk to the Petersham Nurseries, the most famous one in the region. Mind you, possibly in England. How could I describe it? If Elle Decoration fancied creating a space dedicated to plants, that would be it, yes, that exact feeling of stepping into another world. People travel from quite a distance to find inspiration here – most London guides list the address, even London for lovers.

Derrière ce succès, Gael et Francesco Boglione, qui achètent la majestueuse Petersham House en 1997. Aux abords du domaine se trouve déjà une pépinière qui se retrouve menacée de démolition en 2000. Pensez donc, à Richmond, un tel espace attire les promoteurs immobiliers… Gael & Francesco décident de la sauver, la rachète, la rénove, lui donne une personalité. Les serres se font espaces à vivre, alternent verdure et antiquités, chaque section ayant son ambiance, chacune peignant un tableau différent. Un effet tente qui rappellent celles des nomades, d’immenses vasques en terracotta ornées de mousse, de la terre battue, lissée au sol pour rappeler la dolce vita italienne… Leur fille Lara rejoint l’équipe, insuffle une passion sans cesse renouvellée, s’intéresse au développement durable.Behind this incredible success are Gael and Francesco Boglione who bought the impressive Petersham House in 1997. There already was a nursery nearby which found itself under threat of demolition in 2000. Such a space in Richmond – of course there was huge interest in buying the grounds to build on them. Gael and Francesco Boglione would finally buy but only to renovate and give a new life to the nursery. The green houses became rooms to live in and dream, alternating flora and antiques, each painting a different story. Here, a tent effect reminds of nomads in the desert. There, the golden yellow dust on the floor, giant terracotta pots from summers in Italy. Now their daughter has joined the team, adding her own passion for sustainability.

En 2004, un restaurant s’était niché au coeur des lieux. La chef australienne Skye Gyngell s’était installée au fourneaux, décrochant en 2011 une étoile Michelin, pas moins. En 2012, lui succède Greg Malouf qui retournera en Australie après avoir conservé l’étoile. Aujourd’hui ce sont Lucy Boyd et Cat Ashton qui reprennent le flambeau du Petersham Nurseries Café, s’inspire du jardin, font danser les saveurs. On parle ici de Slow Food, ce mouvement qui s’oppose au Fast Food: célébrer les plaisirs de l’assiette, les produits régionaux, laisser les saveurs se développer. Sur toutes les tables, des fleurs fraîches, jonquilles, branches de noisettier, châtons de saule. Il a beau pleuvoir au dehors, les gouttes d’eau jouant une musique sur les panneaux de verre, ici, c’est le printemps. On se promène d’ailleurs entre les tables, les chaises dépareillées, joliment sculptées, entrecoupées de palmiers et fougères. Venez donc rêver avec nous!In 2004, a restaurant opened, adding to the charm of PN. Skye Gyngell, the now famous Australian chef added her own magic, earning a Michelin star in 2011. In 2012, chef Greg Malouf followed, keeping the star up high before returning to Australia. It is now up to the new team, Lucy Boyd and Cat Ashton, to find inspiration in the garden and make our mouths water. This place is all about slow food – a movement opposed, you guessed it, to fast food. Celebrate the pleasure of a carefully decorated plate, the use of quality, local products, of taking the time to prepare and enjoy a meal. On each table can be found fresh flowers: bulbs starting to bloom, daffodils, pussy willow, hazelnut branches. It may be raining outside, drops tapping a rhythm on the glass panes but oh, in here, spring has begun, wonderful fragrances charming you all along. Sculpted mismatched chairs, glass candelabras on the tables, palm trees, ferns – come, we’re taking you along.

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Pour mieux voir la vie en rose, nous commençons le repas sur un bellini à la rhubarbe. La texture évoque celle de la pêche blanche, ce charnu si plaisant. La note acidulée qui chatouille les papilles est adoucie par le pétillant du prosecco, finissant sur une belle mousse, sucrée qui s’attarde sur les lèvres. Prenez le temps d’admirer l’évolution des teintes…We started with cheerful pink, sipping on a rhubarb bellini. The texture is very close to a ripe white peach, very summery, finishing on an extraordinary silky foam that lingers on the lips. The naturally tangy note is counterbalanced by the sparkling prosecco, making it very festive indeed. Do take the time to admire the evolution of the hues from pastel to apricot to candy.

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Ouvrez-vous l’appétit avec ce pain moelleux, mie douce, légèrement sucrée, croûte épaisse, croustillante, légèrement caramélisée. Il est ici saupoudré de flocons de sel qui accentuent le plaisir, fondant soudainement sur la langue. L’huile d’olive qui l’accompagne se fait intense, fruitée, plus lourde que celle du commerce pour mieux enrober chaque bouchée.Open your appetite with this traditional bread, still warm from the oven. The inside slightly sweet, slightly dense but still a lovely plumpness with a thick, nicely cooked, almost caramelised crust. The slices have been sprinkled with salt flakes, suddenly melting on the tongue, peaks of pleasure. Matching olive oil proved fruity, heavier than the ones you would find in the supermarkets, encapsulating the bread perfectly.

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Hand dived scallops with candied pancetta, pea shoots and Jerusalem artichokes from the garden
Saint Jacques pêchées à la main –  un détail crucial, nous explique t-on. Le mollusque étant moins stressée, les saveurs en sont décuplées. De fait, ce sont les meilleures que nous ayions savourées, une belle douceur, tout en gardant les saveurs de la mer. Les pousses de pois alternent avec le salé de la dentelle de pancetta. Belle harmonie avec la purée de topinambours, réhaussée d’ail passé à la poele, superbe base pour les St Jacques. Une célébration toute en petites touches, amenant le bord de mer dans la campagne anglaise. Hand-diving, we were told, ensures the scallops endure the least stress when collected. Good for them – and good for us, as they were some of the smoothest tasting mollusks I have come across, whilst retaining the best flavours of the sea. The beautifully fresh green salad toned down the saltiness of the crisp pancetta, working in harmony with the artichoke purée and sliced sautéed garlic as a base for the prize scallops. Splashes of red pepper and chilli oil added a slight hit. A celebration of scents adding sea and sunshine to a grey English day.

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Grilled tardivo, fried polenta with pecorino, hazelnuts and chilli oil
Le tardivo appartient à la famille des raddichios – longues feuilles à la saveur de l’endive, le coeur légèrement amer s’attendrissant peu à peu. On l’alterne avec le poivré de la roquette, le grillé parfait des noisettes, les touches de poivron réhaussées d’huile pimentée qui en allonge les saveurs. Enfin, sublime, le crémeux de la polenta, très légèrement croustillant, saupoudré de pétale de pecorino plus intense…Ever heard of tardivo? Same family as raddicios. Long leaves with a light bitterness characteristic of chicory, yet fading away as you bite further from the stem. Alternate with peppery rocket, perfectly grilled hazelnuts, roasted red pepper enhanced with chilli oil. The polenta, gently grilled with a light crunchiness, opens onto a surprising creaminess. Pile on some pecorino shavings for their intensity and sigh in pure happiness.

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On l’accordera, pour ce sentiment de fête, non pas à un verre de vin mais au prosecco maison avec un pétale de rose cristallisé. Oubliez l’écoeurant côté des sirops: si ce cocktail reprend toute la poésie d’un loukoum, il en oublie le sucré, se concentrant sur un beau pétillant sec, juste floral.We set wine aside for the moment, preferring to match the starters with a crystallised rose petal prosecco. Too often the floral flavour is from a cordial and proves sickening. It is more subtle here, allowing the dry prosecco to tickle your taste buds whist retaining a Turkish Delight poetry.

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Beef fillet in Barbera with white polenta, Swiss chard and roast salsify
Si je préfère le boeuf joliment marbré, je me dois dans ce cas de faire exception. La qualité de la viande et sa matûrité sont évidentes au premier coup d’oeil, on devine l’abondance de saveurs qu’elle va révéler. Servi medium-rare à ma demande, elle se fait tendre au coeur, joliment saisie sur le dessus. La réduction de vin Barbara ajouté au jus ajoute une pointe de douceur qui complémente à merveille le steak, réhaussant ainsi la polenta. Et quelle polenta, les amis! Si là encore cet accompagnement ne fait pas partie de mes choix habituels  (souvenirs de portions fades), quel plaisir de pouvoir changer d’avis. Une belle note de maïs qui accentue le plat et met en joie, addictive. Pour être franc, les légumes verts, pourtant préparés à la perfection, ont perdu leur intérêt. Je rêve à présent de steak et polenta… dès le petit-déjeuner, c’est tout dire.I usually prefer my steaks well-marbled, plenty of fat for flavour. This lean fillet was an exception to my rule. The quality of the meat and its aging was immediately apparent from the wealth of flavour it offered. Cooked medium-rare as specified, it remained tender yet nicely charred on the outside. The generous serving of Barbara wine jus added hints of sweetness and earthiness to perfectly complement the steak, also enhancing the polenta. And what a polenta! Again, not my usual choice (memories of tasteless cornmeal creations) but I was so glad to be re-educated. That cornmeal flavour, accentuated, celebrated even. Truly moreish. To be honest, the vegetables, though fresh and cooked to perfection, were wasted on me as I dreamt of having steak and polenta every day – for breakfast.

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Savourez-le avec un Chianti Classico 2011 de Fonterutoli, un petit village italien dont le terroir est si rocailleux que l’on surnomme la production de ses vignobles “Vin de pierre”. Au palais, peu de tannin, de la cerise noire, de la framboise, un peu d’épices, assez léger pour mettre les plats en valuers sans en cacher les note plus fortes.To be enjoyed with a glass of Chianti Classico 2011, produced in Fonterutoli, a village in Toscana which soil is so stony the production is called “wine of rocks”. Light in tannin and therefore an easy drinker, it speaks of cherries, raspberries, a little spice.

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Slow roast lamb shoulder with Pearl Barley, sweet potato, rocket and pomegranate
Un agneau cuit tout doucement, une chair juteuse qui se détache du bout de la fourchette. Les carottes se font presque dessert, l’orge perlé s’est délicieusement imprégné du jus de la viande, on dénote une trace de cumin, les grains de grenade éclatent en bouche. Couronnez donc votre fourchette de chips de patate douce élégamment présentées en ruban. Un plat bijou, entre marocain et perse…I wonder how many hours the meat was cooked to be so tender, so juicy, so concentrated in flavours. The carrots were almost candied, the pearl barley soaked with juices, highlighting a trace of cumin, pomegranate exploding in the mouth. Add the sweet potato chips on top of your forkful, elegantly presented as ribbons. A jewel of a dish, mixing Moroccan and Persian cuisine.

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Raddichio, rocket and pomegranate salad
Craquez aussi pour la salade de roquette, raddichios et grenade, liée d’un filet d’huile d’olive et d’une pointe de moutarde. Extraordinairement rafraîchissant.If you like an additional side, we highly recommend this one, very refreshing. The dressing is discreet, just a drizzle of olive oil and grainy mustard.

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Panna cotta with blood orange and ginger caramel
Un classique italien embelli d’un caramel épicée et d’une adorable violette comestible. L’orange sanguine, présentée comme un baiser, s’accorde harmonieusement avec la riche crème vanillée. Aucun tranchant dans les saveurs, une belle onctuosité, comme une histoire qui se déroule. Joli twists sur une dolce!A cute viola blossom and starburst of spiced caramel embellish this classic Italian offering. The ‘kiss’ of blood orange segments atop worked surprisingly well with the rich cream and vanilla. No clash of flavours here, simply a tasteful twist on this delicious dolce.

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Marsala baked pears and dates with honeyed oats, vanilla mascarpone
Ces poires pochées sont somptueuses. Seules, sans doute, elles seraient classiques. Mais dans cette réduction de marsala qui a également infusé pruneaux et cerises, elles chantent les mérites de l’hiver. Quenelle de crème vanillée, avoine grillée, violette en 3 tons. Concentré de bonne humeur!Sumptuous. On their own, the baked pears probably would have been a little bland but this marsala wine reduction, infused by the prunes and cherries, just sings the praises of winter. Sugary, spicy, nutmeg and cinnamon. Creamy mascarpone, grilled oats – it suppresses any need for conversation. You suddenly are totally dessert-focused.

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Profitez-en pour découvrir le reste des lieux. La serre abritant le restaurant s’ouvre sur une boutique dont les teintes appaisantes rappellent les intérieurs flamands, un classicisme romantique intemporel, le chic de la vie à la campagne. Antiquités, pièces neo-vintage, porcelaine blanche et crème, guirlandes lumineuses. Plus loin, on croisera la tea room, serre aux allures tropicale, chaises colorées à la peinture volontairement écaillée et une boutique dédiée aux outils de jardinage, de la bêche dernier cri aux briques de compost bio. Au dehors, le jardin est encore un peu endormi, saison oblige mais l’on trouvera une belle sélection d’hiver, des rosiers aussi, des primevères éclatants, des jonquilles et muscaris, des perce-neiges… On repartira d’ailleurs plus chargé qu’on ne l’avait anticipé!Do not leave without exploring the rest of the nurseries. The restaurant opens onto a boutique: appeasing colours reminiscent of Flemish interiors, a timeless romanticism, chic countryside life. Antiques and neo vintage finds, cream and white china, garlands of light. Further on is the tearoom, also in its own greenhouse but with a more tropical feel, colourful metallic chairs with distressed paint. Another shop focuses on garden tools: from the best shovel ever to organic compost bricks. The garden outside is quiet and still – not the right season yet. Nevertheless you will find a splendid choice of unusual primroses, daffodils, muscari, roses, snow drops and other winter plants. Be prepared to leave much heavier loaded than expected!

Outre les plats à la carte, un menu fixe est proposé chaque jour: 2 plats pour £23, 3 pour £28. Pour vous donner une idée, il comprenait lors de notre visite, tardivos grillés / agneau slow fooded / poires rôties mentionnées plus haut).Aside from the à la carte dishes, a fixed menu is proposed daily: 2 courses for £23, 3 for £28. To give you an idea, on the day of our visit, it included the grilled tardive / slow roast lamb / baked pears mentioned above.

Petersham Nurseries
Church Lane, Off Petersham Road
Richmond, Surrey, TW10 7AG

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2 Comments

  1. 4 Feb ’14 / 12:32

    Cet endroit semble merveilleux !
    Les plats sont fort appétissant et joliment présentés.

  2. 4 Feb ’14 / 15:29

    Un Bellini, des jacinthes et je suis au paradis ! Un endroit vraiment splendide que j’espère découvrir un jour. Bravo pour tes belles photos qui donnent très envie d’y aller en tous cas !

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