Below are notes from a previous meal in July 2008.
Actually getting to the Petersham Nurseries is something of an adventure, lying as it does down the end of a long gravel path off a narrow road. You access the restaurant itself through the rows of nursery plants, and hope that it is a dry day since I would imagine it would be a muddy experience if it was raining. The dining room on the sunny day of our visit was outside (there is an adjoining room which functions as the dining room when it is wet). The menu is short in length but fairly appealing, with a broadly British menu, appealing that is until that is you get to the prices. Starters are £12 - £14.50, main courses £17 - £27, desserts around £7.
The wine list is fairly short, with 11 whites, 11 reds, 3 rosé wines and two sweet wines, starting at £16. Markups are not excessive: Marcel Deiss Saint Hippolyte Gewürztraminer 2004 as listed at £41 for a wine that retails at around £16. Albert Mann Riesling 2006 is priced at £28 for a wine that costs around £11 in a shop. Bread is just one choice: slices of a really heavy, soggy textured brown bread (10/20). Tables are simple wooden affairs with no tablecloths (though white linen napkins are provided) and the chairs are quite small. We were in a group of three packed on to a table of remarkably tiny proportions that would have felt cramped for two. However the tables for four around us looked to be of more normal dimensions.
I began with a simple dish of girolles with young spinach (£14.50). The mushrooms were of good quality, from Scotland and were nicely seasoned, and the spinach itself was lightly cooked and retained its flavour (14/20). This was a little better than my companion’s dishes, a salt cod brandade and a salad, that were about 13/20 level. My next course was quail with black rice and a green bean salad. The quail itself was cooked nicely and had decent flavour, but the quail itself was not of an especially high standard. The rice was fine but the dressing with the green bean salad was badly unbalanced, too much vinegar in proportion to the oil (12/20).
Summer pudding was pleasant, the bread reasonable but not quite enough fruit relative to the bread, and no blackcurrants appeared to be used, which I think is the key to really excellent summer pudding, both for the colour they impart as well as flavour; this was odd as there appeared to be blackcurrants in another dish. Still, this was a decent enough dish (13/20). Coffee is just filter coffee (no espresso or the like), of acceptable quality.
Service was friendly but very basic: the waitresses had no idea who ordered what when delivering the dishes, which is a pretty simple thing to master and probably acceptable in a garden centre café charging about one fifth of the prices here. Price is the big problem for me. Admittedly we did have a pre-lunch drink, a bottle of moderate wine and two glasses of wine between three of us, but the bill was £89 a head. Now bear in mind that Le Gavroche does a set lunch for £46 including wine. A main course sea bass here is £27, whereas an entire lunch at Petrus is £35. The place was packed out and reservations are hard to get, so the denizens of Richmond obviously see no problem in the pricing here, but for me the bill was seriously out of proportion to the quality of ingredients and the culinary capability level demonstrated. The food was decent and the setting pretty on a sunny day, but I’m afraid the bill would put me off returning.
Further reviews: 04th Jul 2012