It is one of the great regrets of my life that I never ate at Petersham Nurseries when I had the chance. It always seemed too far away (too many tubes and trains and buses and taxis); we were too poor; we were too busy; we had other things to do.
Now, of course, that I am so much further away (and so much poorer, not to mention busier), I could kick myself, especially because its much-feted chef, Skye Gyngell, has left recently after the pressure of having a Michelin star all got too much.
I've been thinking about this a lot recently, especially when I accidentally ended up pulling Gyngell's second book, My favourite ingredients, from my shelves for the March edition of Random Recipes.
I 'found' Skye on the recommendation of my sister, who cooked fabulous things from her first book, A year in my kitchen, whenever we went to stay. Her daughter (my sister's daughter, not Skye's) and gave each other My favourite ingredients for Christmas, which shows how good my sister's interpretation of Gyngell's work was.
While the book choice was random, the recipe selection was more about finding something to cook for a vegetarian coeliac who was coming for dinner (that would involve the large pumpkin I'd bought on Saturday morning at the market). The squash and tomato curry with lime and coconut fitted the bill perfectly, though I will be thrilled if anyone can tell me where to buy fresh curry leaves that aren't 100 years old. I had to roughly guess the equivalent amount of pumpkin to an onion squash - and possibly overdid it a bit, but it was fantastic.
This might sound a bit silly, but Gyngell's way of cooking is very quiet and contemplative. She can talk about "introducing flavours to each other" without it sounding twee or forced and while there's a bit of mooching about while you're waiting for said flavours to make small talk, it's not a taxing way to cook.
Have you ever dined at Petersham? What did you think?