Easter Monday isn’t as depressing as other Mondays, but it’s still a tad upsetting as you realise that the long weekend is drawing to a close. The best medicine to combat the blues? Cake! My sister Ellen and I decided it was such a balmy day that we would walk along to Petersham Nurseries – a 20 minute walk from Richmond, along the towpath. Naturally Strudel, the miniature schnauzer, wanted to come too.
Petersham Nurseries is a leafy oasis on the fringes of London, and it is so much more than just a garden centre. Although you can browse plants in the nursery, you’ll also find gifts and antiques in the shop, can indulge in tea and cake from The Teahouse, or really splash out in the posh dining room, The Café.
Petersham Nurseries continues to buck any normalcy by housing all of the above attractions in greenhouses – so you can drink and dine amongst the plants, while sitting on rustic, vintage furniture.
On a warm day such as today, the greenhouses were actually a little too hot – Strudel was panting away (we had to give her some water in a teacup!) so we parked ourselves in one of the airier spots, on some vintage metal bistro furniture, and I headed to the deli counter.
The queue was pretty long (I guess everyone had had the same idea for a sunny Easter Monday), but eventually I placed my order for two slices of homemade cake: Cappuccino, and Coconut, Carrot & Chocolate. These, plus a pot of chai tea, came to £12.
Also on offer are savoury dishes – seasonal salads, soups and quiches, all made in-house by the Italian Teahouse chefs, who are influenced by British and local produce.
The Coconut, Carrot & Chocolate cake was excellent – an unusual combination that made for a delicious, moist and flavourful slice. Previous visits to Petersham Nurseries have featured more cakes with vegetables – courgette, parsnip, beetroot, sweet potato – all ingredients that might come as a surprise, but that totally work.
Once we’d polished off the cake, I set off exploring and photographing The Café. The restaurant is slightly fancier than The Tearoom, with table service from attentive staff, but the furniture is still mismatched and vintage, the floor is bare dirt, and you’re still in a greenhouse.
The Café’s menu is created by culinary director Lucy Boyd, who has exceptional knowledge of produce, an English culinary background and a lifelong affection for Italian flavours, all of which combine to make something quite special. Edible flowers, herbs and heritage vegetable varieties from the Petersham House Walled Kitchen Garden all feature in the menu. Prices at The Café are in the “special occasion” range, however, with starters priced from £12, and mains around £25 each.
Adjacent to The Café is the shop, which is a delight to meander through. Gifts and items for the home and garden are all delightfully displayed amongst flowers and plants in the airy glasshouse.
Just as we were leaving, the sky turned rather grey and the rain started, so we got totally soaked on the walk home – however even this wasn’t enough to dent the wholesome, springtime spirit that Petersham Nurseries so effectively exudes, and I’m already wondering when I can get back for more sunshine and cake!
Church Lane (off Petersham Road), Richmond, TW10 7AG
The Café bookings: online / 020 8940 5230