Petersham Nurseries, once London's favourite under-the-radar eaterie, has opened two new Covent Garden outlets. We meet the couple behind the phenomenon.
On a recent Tuesday afternoon, Quintessentially found itself in the conservatory of a family home behind Petersham Nurseries, near Richmond Hill. Although still within Greater London, the house – with the dogs running around, chickens roaming, fresh coffee brewing and a location above a cow-filled meadow - feels like it belongs in a different place, and a different time. However, while the critically-acclaimed restaurant at Petersham Nurseries has eschewed the PR-cycle of new openings and trend-chasing that consumes much of its peer group, it is categorically not a period piece. Long-time champions of a number of trends that others are only catching onto now (from organic gardening to sustainable sourcing) and with two new restaurants in Covent Garden, Petersham Nurseries is a constant and dynamic work in progress. Lara and Harry Boglione – daughter and son of Petersham Nurseries founders Gael and Francesco Boglione – fulfil their own respective roles as Managing Director of Petersham Nurseries, and Founding Owner and Director of Haye Farm, Devon. Quintessentially's Restaurant Specialist Hannah Felt sat down with Lara and Harry to find out how they do things.
Hannah Felt: How did Petersham Nurseries start?
Lara Boglione: It actually started completely randomly. To us, it was always the little garden centre at the bottom of our garden that we used to visit, especially for Harry.
Harry Boglione: I spent my whole childhood there, helping out in the potting sheds, long before my parents owned it. When it came up for sale, my dad wanted to protect the idyllic area around our house, to save it from the developers. After that he seemed to realise that he then actually owned a garden centre. When they decided to really take it on, both my parents took everything they loved and incorporated it into that one spot.
LB: First they started with a café serving just tea and cakes, but they really wanted a restaurant. Having met through a mutual friend, it was only natural that they should then bring in Skye Gyngell to launch the restaurant. This worked really well. Then they started bringing trinkets and artefacts back from their travels, and found inspiration in our Italian grandmother who owned an interior design shop in Milan.
HB: All the different influences and passions that our parents harboured came together, to create what is now the Petersham Nurseries brand. My mum has a huge interest in interiors. That signature style, it's completely her.
LB: Obviously our Italian influence means that the food plays a huge part too. But fundamentally it's the people that have made Petersham what it is today. A lot have been here from the beginning, it's an extended family. It also helps that we're surrounded by nature; the ever-changing and seasonal face of Petersham means that every visit is a different experience. For a world that is now chasing experiences, it's so great to know that we can provide a unique and authentic one to those visiting. That's the exciting thing about the new Covent Garden site; we need to understand the new crowd, offer fresh experiences and different restaurants, while keeping it all rooted in the original that our parents created.
HF: Coming back to the new site in Covent Garden - have you adapted the brand to suit the location or does it stay true to the flagship in Richmond?
LB: We never wanted to replicate Richmond. I think it would have been a disaster to build a greenhouse in central London. For us, it has been so interesting to map out exactly what is important to the Petersham Nurseries customer, what they engage with, and why they love it so much. We absolutely love the romantic history of Covent Garden and its flower markets – and our brand has a lot of Italian elements - however, it is quintessentially English. We'll be taking what we do at Richmond, and elevating it for The Petersham, where your *Members' event will be held. There's a less rustic dining room than the greenhouse in Richmond. It takes much more inspiration from the way our parents decorated our family home, with wooden floors, contemporary art, and exquisite glassware and crockery. We're hoping it will be the new spot you visit on a Friday night or a weekend for a few drinks and a bite to eat. It's more casual and accessible to Londoners, but it's still undeniably 'Petersham'.
HF: Do you have any favourite dishes on the new menu yet?
HB: I like food that is very simple and that has integrity. For that reason, I like the Crispy fried Haye Farm chicken with wild garlic aioli from La Goccia.
LB: It's delicious, and it's Harry's chicken…
HB: Slight prejudice from me! But they have also been trying out the new wood-fired oven for meat, keeping it very simple, with just herbs and spices as seasoning. Absolutely delicious. We tried a lamb shoulder, and the meat just fell off the bone.
LB: We have lots of different sections for the La Goccia menu: Antipasti Fritti - my favourite section as it's so naughty - the Garden, Padella (pasta straight from the pan), the Wood Fired Oven, and our Grill. In the Fritti section, my favourites are the fried artichokes, but I loved the Cornish cockles and clams with Vermentino in cartoccio, courgettes, chilli and parsley from the wood-fired oven section. 'In cartoccio' means in greaseproof paper, then the Vermentino white wine is added. The wine is actually produced by my husband and his family, so I'm biased too. In The Petersham, the Portland crab & Florence fennel salad with pistachios and crème fraîche is to die for! Absolutely beautiful.
This is an abridged version of the full interview that will appear in the next issue of Quintessentially Magazine.
*On 9th May, The Petersham restaurant will open its doors on the nursery premises in Covent Garden, under the management of Chef Director Damian Clisby. Quintessentially will be hosting an exclusive takeover and inviting Members to be among the first to experience the elegant new dining room. Contact your Lifestyle Manager to be sure you're part of it.