Consider this your three-course guide to eating like you’re at the luxurious Richmond restaurant.
There are some restaurants that pride themselves on their down-to-earth, homely feel. Others delight in creating a sense of theatre, deploying formal dress codes and sculptural small plates to transport guests to a world far beyond what they’d experience in their own kitchen. And then there are those in the middle: places where the decor, food and service are Special-With-A-Capital-S, but the vibe is still relaxed, welcoming and comfortable.
The Petersham Nurseries Café – a stone’s throw from the Thames in Richmond, southwest London – occupies this middle ground. Tables in the restaurant are adorned with hand-dyed linen cloths and loose arrangements of fresh-cut flowers; the glass ceiling is hung with lilac bougainvillea and fragrant jasmine vines; and the seasonal menus are based largely on what can be sourced from the adjoining kitchen garden. In new book Petersham Nurseries, co-founder Gael Boglione defines Petersham’s aesthetic as “luxury without ostentation” – which just about sums it up.
Gael and her husband Francesco Boglione opened the doors of Petersham Nurseries in 2004, having moved into a nearby 17th century hunting lodge in the late 1990s. According to Francesco, the couple initially had no idea what to do with the plant nursery – until a trip to India inspired him to use the space to sell furniture, gifts and antiques, as well as flowers, produce and more conventional garden centre products.
Later, Gael realised that most British garden centres have their own cafes. A chance meeting with award-winning Australian chef Skye Gyngell led the Bogliones to invest in creating a proper restaurant focused on seasonal, chemical-free ingredients – and in 2004, the gardener Lucy Boyd began growing Italian produce in the nursery for Gyngell to cook with.
The rest, as they say, is history. Petersham Nurseries is now a world-famous destination, known as much for its stunning setting and rustically elegant decor as its phenomenal food.
Below, Gael and Francesco Boglione share three recipes from the Petersham Nurseries book, so you can recreate some of the magic in your own kitchen.
Bruschetta with broad beans, pecorino, mint and taggiasche olives
Just-picked, freshly podded, raw baby broad beans are unlike anything you can buy in the shops, and a real seasonal treat.
Here they are mixed with Taggiasche olives, a Ligurian delicacy from the small town of Taggia, considered to be one of the best-flavoured varieties.
- 250g broad beans, podded
- 8 mint leaves
- 30g pecorino, grated, plus extra to serve
- 1 lemon, zest and juice
- 50ml olive oil
- 6 slices focaccia, toasted
- 3 tbsp taggiasche olives, halved
- salt and black pepper
In a pestle and mortar, pound the broad beans, mint leaves and a pinch of salt until crushed.
Fold in the pecorino, lemon zest and juice and olive oil, and season to taste.
Cut the focaccia into small pieces and spread thickly with the topping.
Sprinkle with the olives and more pecorino before serving.
Whole baked lemon sole with wild mushrooms, capers and kale
An impressive-looking yet simple dish that pairs earthy, autumn flavours with a taste of the sea. Any line-caught, sustainable flat fish can be substituted for the sole, and there’s no need to get too hung up on the mushrooms either; just use whatever you have to hand. We like to use elf cups as they freeze beautifully, meaning they can be enjoyed year-round.
- 1 whole lemon sole, skin on
- 50g elf cup or button mushrooms, sliced
- 50g chanterelles, cleaned and sliced if large
- 50g wild oyster mushrooms, cleaned and sliced if large
- 40g unsalted butter
- 50g kale, stalks removed and leaves torn
- juice of ½ lemon
- 2 ½ tbsp capers olive oil
- salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Lay the fish in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil and season. Bake for 20 minutes and leave to rest.
While the sole is cooking, gently fry the mushrooms in half the butter and a splash of olive oil over a medium–high heat.
After 2–3 minutes, add the kale and keep cooking, stirring constantly.
Remove from the heat and add the rest of the butter, let it melt, and then season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice and stir in the capers.
Spoon the mushrooms around the edge of the sole, leaving the fish visible. Drizzle with a little more oil and lemon juice.
Nespole, almond and pistachio crostata with crème fraîche
The arrival of nespole on the markets – smooth-skinned fruits with the colouring of apricots, and known as loquats or Chinese apricots in English – heralds the beginning of summer. Smaller fruits tend to be sweeter, though this recipe has enough sweetness to take a tarter fruit. If you can’t find nespole, apricots, plums or peaches work just as well.
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 125g ground almonds
- 25g plain flour
- 10 nespole, halved and stones removed
- 50g pistachios, roughly chopped
- crème fraîche, to serve
For the sweet pastry:
- 165g unsalted butter, softened
- 165g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 400g plain flour
First, make the pastry. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, then slowly add the eggs one at a time.
Fold in the flour and bring together into a ball, then wrap and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Next make the frangipane. Beat the butter and sugar together, then slowly add the eggs one at a time.
Fold in the ground almonds and flour. Cover and let stand at room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 175°C and grease a 28cm loose- based tart tin.
Once the pastry has rested, roll out on a lightly floured surface to 5mm thick. Line the tin and then rest in the fridge for a further 20 minutes.
Once chilled, blind bake for 15–20minutes, until golden brown, then leave to cool.
Once the tart case is cool, fill with the frangipane mix. Top with the nespole and pistachios.
Bake in the middle of the oven at 160°C for approximately 40–50 minutes until browned on top and the frangipane is just set.
Leave to cool slightly, then serve with crème fraîche.
Petersham Nurseries by the Boglione Family (£65) is out now
Photography: Andrew Montgomery