Even though we are finally in the throes of Spring, I want to take you back to one of the most magical Christmas Eve dinners I’ve ever had. It was at a place called Petersham where the lights were twinkling, the food was amazing, and we were miles away from the bustling streets of central London. We are at the fabulous Petersham Nurseries Restaurant, which is nestled in a lovely greenhouse, among a garden shop and florist, and a quaint little teahouse. And to top it all off? Celebrated chef Skye Gyngell (who has since ventured off to start her own restaurant called Spring), came and chatted with us after our meal, and signed my cookbook! I was starstruck – by the wonderful scenery, the fresh and delicious food, and the friendly faces all around.
But getting back to the season at hand, the Petersham Nurseries has since grown into a beloved getaway for the London crowd, whether it be for a stroll in the garden and a cup of tea, or a fabulous dinner, and there’s no better time to go than spring!
One of the fabulous things about the grounds is that Petersham Nurseries has been an active garden shop since 1970, originally functioning as the grounds house to the Petersham property. Gael & Francesco Boglione moved into the Petersham House in the mid-1990s, but when the nursery was facing the possibility demolition and property developers, they swooped in to buy it, beginning the process of revamping and renovating all of these wonderful old greenhouses and buildings, without losing any of their original, quaint charm. And by 2004, the Petersham Nurseries was up and running again, continuing to operate as a garden shop and florist, but adding a teahouse, a cafe, and a shop with lovely gifts and furniture. The crown jewel became the restaurant, which opened in 2004, headed up by chef Skye Gyngell. With the clear aim to create a space that “respects and is in tune with nature and positive living,” the restaurant flourished, using fresh food and creative menus, and gaining a Michelin star in 2011.
In more recent years the next generation of Boglione’s have taken charge, with Lara (the eldest daughter) running the show, and Harry following in the family footsteps by opening Haye Farm, which supports local restaurants in the slow food movement (including Petersham, of course). Along with head chef Damian Clisby, and culinary director Lucy Boyd, the legacy of this lovely enterprise continues, maintaining quality and creativity in everything they do. Together, the shop, cafe, and nursery have flourished over the past 10 years to create a magical oasis to take in food, nature, and all that the lovely English countryside has to offer, always with that family-run feel that makes you feel right at home.