Postcard from London or: Cuteness Alert!
Orange Pekoe, 3 White Hart Lane, Barnes, London SW13 0PX Tel.: 020 8876 6070 www.orangepekoeteas.com
Right opposite my house at the Mortlake end of Barnes, just a stone’s through from the Thames, is the completely adorable Orange Pekoe Café. It matches the local village ambience as perfectly as the glass slipper fits Cinderella. Dinky and tiny, with wooden floor boards, vintage floral tea cups, home made food, salads, snacks and cakes, it’s supremely popular with the local yummy Mummies, the pavement tables a great bonus in the summer.
It’s a great place to meet any time during the day, the food fresh, many of the cakes gluten free and offering a broad selection of teas and coffees. My favourite is the Japanese Green Cherry Tea which doesn’t just conjure up a pretty picture but is also a delicate, subtly flavoured drink, perfect with a fresh sorbet coloured macaroon, say. Or perhaps a gluten free polenta cake? Or how about a juicy blueberry tart with just the smallest dollop of cream? Talking of cream, Orange Pekoe’s Afternoon Teas are legendary and, on special occasions like Christmas, Easter or Mother’s Day, you can even order a bottle of champagne to improve the experience further! But for me, just over the road as I am, nothing beats their breakfasts. A perfectly poached egg on toasted rye bread with avocado slices, chilli and lime, with a side order of thin crispy pancetta is my regular order but there are many other delicious options. With the sun streaming in through the large sky light, some gentle classical music in the background and the daily newspaper under my nose, it’s a complete moment of bliss, a little oasis of me time.
Orange Pekoe is open weekdays from 7.30 am to 5pm and from 9 am to 5pm on weekends, breakfast is served from 9 am to noon, traditional full afternoon teas are served from 2pm to 5pm daily. It’s a small venue and always fills up fast, especially at conventional morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea times, so it’s worth being strategic about timing since you can’t book a table. Service is helpful and friendly, a traditional afternoon tea with all the trimmings (but not including champagne) is just under £20.
Tanya’s Café, 35 Ixworth Place, Chelsea, London SW3 3QX Tel.: 020 7225 7538 www.tanyascafe.com
Well, well, well, here we have quite something! Anyone who has been following my blog for some time will know that I am quite keen on healthy food. Having said that, a salad of limp lettuce, tasteless tomato and boring cucumber leaves me as ice cold as the next person. You won’t find me extolling that! But I am always impressed by the interesting dishes some dedicated raw food chefs can magic onto a plate, there’s nothing boring about these, and often they can be truly outstandingly delicious. Tanya Alekseeva, a young Kiwi of Russian extraction who grew up in Ecuador is one such raw food master. She’s written several excellent raw food ebooks, won lots of accolades, conducts great health retreats and workshops and last year opened the first of so far two raw food restaurants, Tanya’s Cafe. It’s located at 35 Ixworth Place, Chelsea in the very nice My Hotel (www.myhotel.com) boutique hotel.
Very attractively presented, with little pots of herbs on the tables and plants on the walls, you can watch the raw food chefs at work while you eat. Everything here is fresh, raw, vegan, plant based, hand-picked, organic, ethically sourced, free from processed sugar and gluten and completely, unadulteratedly yummy. From breakfast to dinner you can indulge yourself to your taste buds’ delight and yet feel healthy and light. How about Rawtella Un-toast for breakfast, soft raisin bread with cacao hazelnut spread and coconut yoghurt? Or Warrior Salad, marinated pesto- stuffed winter mushrooms with juicy veggies ? Or Nachos made from dehydrated crispy corn chips, walnut mushroom meat, guacamole, pineapple salsa and soured cashew cream? Not forgetting the irresistible kale chips, of course. And oooooh, those cakes! Blueberry cheesecake, anyone? And yes, panic not, alcoholic superfood cocktails and organic vegan wine are available, as is very good organic coffee, so you need suffer no deprivation!
The clientele is young, chic and very Chelsea, none of the usual fuzzy bearded, Jesus sandalled, pallour stricken healthstore nuts in sight! Tanya’s is open Tuesdays to Fridays from 9am to 10 pm, Saturdays 9am to 6pm, Sundays and Mondays 9am to 3pm. Starters are around the £7/£8 mark, main courses about £14/£15. The newly opened second London location is at Ride Republic, 709 Fulham Road in Parson’s Green.
Megan’s Deli and Restaurant, 571 King’s Road, Fulham, London SW6 2EB Tel.: 020 7348 7139 www.megans.co.uk
It’s not much of a secret that this is one of Kate and Pippa’s favourite little hideaway haunts and that’s not surprising, since it’s there on the Fulham end of the King’s Road in a little parade of shops, looking completely unobtrusive. As you drive by, you’d assume it was a little local deli with one or two small tables out at the front where you might eat your sandwich and drink your frothy coffee on a sunny day. And yes, that’s how the Megan’s aficionados would quite like to keep things. You carry on driving by, that’s good! In fact, you enter what looks like a little farm shop selling home made goodies, cakes, preserves and condiments. You might then realise that there are a few rustic scrubbed pine tables inside and that you can actually eat more than a sandwich here, a light bite, perhaps. Yes, that’s right, you sit here and eat your cup cake overlooking the busy Kings Road! You need never even know that that steepish staircase over there leads down into one of London’s most magical little fairy tale gardens/ conservatories. Open to the blue summer skies or the twinkling stars in summer or glass covered in winter with plenty of heating, this is one little jewel of a restaurant!
The food is good quality but uncomplicated. During the day there are wonderful breakfasts and brunches to be had, a colourful and delicious seasonal salad bar , quiches, grilled fish or chicken, soup of the day, hot dish of the day, sandwiches, cakes and cookies. In the evening, the menu offers various tempting, quite straightforward nibbles and starters such as Whole Baked Camembert, Globe Artichoke, Charcuterie Board, Antipasti, Squid and so on, as well as a variety of mains, freshly grilled on the BBQ, from ribeye via burgers, chicken, fish, prawns to haloumi. The chips are fantastic and so are the dipping sauces. The menu may be relatively simple but it ticks all the culinary pleasure boxes. There’s a decent wine list and a small selection of rather scrumptious puds.
In fact, the whole eating experience here is a delight with the little gingham covered tables, the pretty flowers, the twinkling fairy lights and candles and the summer garden ambience. Service is neighbourhood friendly and prices range from about £10 for a lunch mains to a maximum of £17 for in the evening (excepting dishes for two). Just don’t tell anyone about it, okay? Oh, and mind those steep stairs on your way out after a couple of glasses of wine!
Petersham Nurseries, Cafe, Restaurant and Teahouse
Church Lane, Petersham Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7AB, United Kingdom
+44 20 8940 5230 petershamnurseries.com
Let me lead you up the garden path. Or rather down a slightly muddy lane, past a tiny country church and then a meadow, which spreads down to the banks of the River Thames, the spires and roof tops of Richmond just beyond. Then again, you might prefer to come by car here to Petersham, about half an hour’s drive from the West End of London, close to England’s oldest Polo Club, the Ham Polo Club, on the Surrey border of South West London. Even then, you will be hard pushed to find Petersham Nurseries which, coming from Richmond, is along a virtually invisible turning to the right, immediately by the above mentioned church, St. Peter. So why am I taking you to a garden centre in the back of beyond? Here’s why: not only does Petersham Nurseries offer a vast array of the most wonderful plants and flowers, and not only does it sell fabulous and funky conservatory type furniture an accessories within an exceptionally pretty environment, and not only do you feel that somehow you have stepped into a bit of 18th century pastural bliss within blinking distance of the urban city lights but here, spread over two of the glasshouses, you will find the Michelin starred Petersham Nurseries Café which in effect is an outstanding though rustic looking daytime restaurant in a botanical setting, as is the adjoining equally charming Tea House.
Damian Clisby is the head chef working here, together with culinary director Lucy Boyd, gardener, food writer and cook. Together they create a spectacular seasonally evolving daily menu inspired by what is growing in the Petersham Nurseries gardens. The menu is compact but each option prepared and presented well and mouthwatering. I enjoyed Linguine with Portland Crab, sea purslane and chilli as a starter, followed by Monkfish with pink fir potatoes and porcini, grilled leeks and minestra negro, my companion enjoyed a Risotto with artichokes and parmesan and then a half roasted poussin with pulses and cime di rapa. We shared a Yorkshire rhubarb tart with rhubarb icecream and it was all totally stupendous. Yes well, ahem, and not exactly cheap at almost £120 for lunch for two including two glasses of rhubarb prosecco, water and two coffees, although the daily set menu is £23 for two courses and £28 for three, which at this level of quality and cooking is perfectly acceptable.
The Café/Restaurant is closed on Mondays and only rarely opens for supper club events in the evenings, on all other weekdays it is open for lunch from 12 to 5pm with last reservations at 3pm. Booking well in advance is absolutely essential.
The Petersham Tea House is more casual and operates on a first come, first served basis. Like the café/restaurant, the menu is Italian influenced using home grown or local fresh and seasonal British produce. Here you can pick up a quick snack, a soup, a quiche and a variety of good looking salads as well as tea and cakes. You queue in what can only be described as a culinary garden shed, choose your food and carry to your table in the garden or in the glass tea house.
The Teahouse is closed on Mondays and open from Tuesdays through to Saturdays from 10 am till 4.30 pm and on Sundays from 11 am until 4.30pm.
What can I say? Petersham Nurseries is expensive, hard to find, out of the city centre and yes, just a teensy bit pretentious, all that’s true but the ambience is something else, something completely out of the ordinary you’re unlikely to find anywhere else, a dreamy, flowery, rural idyll with surprising, exquisite food, and memories to treasure.