It wasn't my first time at Petersham Nurseries. Yet, the place seems to change its skin at every visit – an ever-evolving being, dancing along with the seasons and the weather and the moods.
We were there for a lunch and wine tasting event. Arriving early – something rather unusual for me – I went on exploring the nurseries of plants and flowers, unusually colourful for being early autumn. From every corner, I could hear the muffled noises coming from the tea house, serving light lunches and teas to people looking for a corner of peace and beauty in what is the London countryside; and the bustling cafe – a restaurant really – in full Saturday service swing, alive with the sound of plates and coutlery. For a good while, I got lost in thought among the outdoor patches, hiding behind tall flowers and vased trees, admiring the casually messy yet so elegant compositions of species and colours. Measured wilderness – almost impossible to reach when one tries so hard. Effortless beauty.
I could have spent hours in the shop nestled in one of the nurseries, browsing eclectic pieces of furniture mingled and morphed with elegant flatware and stoneware, shabby chic gardening tools, and fine cotton textiles. They all have been carefully picked in markets and artisan shops all over the world, creating unusual, well-thought pairings and contrasts. I saw myself falling in love with a set of white ceramic plates and bowls, and with the cupboard hosting them. One day, I thouhgt.
The first course arrived promptly: fresh 'paglia and fieno' (literally, hay and straws, the green given by the presence of spinach in the pasta dough) with mushrooms and zucchini flowers, a delicate start washed down by a fresh, crisp white Tocai Friulano. Braised rabbit followed, served on creamy polenta alongside sweet roasted heirloom carrots. Paired with a pale pink pinot grigio, this dish brought the meal to a whole different level. Cheese closed the lunch rather than dessert, in order to present the last red wine in the list of tastings. On the platter, moreish sweet muscat grapes and milky wet walnuts helped alternate the saltiness of a delicious ubriaco cheese, which I kept reaching for the ever last morsel.
More wine? Why not. Coffee? Sure. Lost in conversation, we stood up not earlier than 5pm. Light and sated, and with dusk fast approaching, we headed back to Richmond through the meadows, and along the Thames. The path was now silent. A fine autumn night upon us.
Disclaimer: Lara kindly invited us to take part to the wine tasting lunch organised by Petersham Cellars as her guests. All views are my own.