Dylan Jones: At the end of a curling country lane, I've found the perfect setting for long, Bellini-fuelled lunches


My idea of a perfect trendy, new restaurant is one that I don't have to go to. I'd like them to open, and then close, probably about 18 months later, without my ever having to visit them. I view them like unnecessary pop groups, the ones that disappear after their second album without my having had to hear them at all. Perfect.

Sometimes, of course, I make mistakes, when the publicity and hype force me to bite my lip and go and see for myself. This happened a few years ago with Vong, a nauseatingly fashionable upmarket Asian place in Knightsbridge. I'd heard such good things about it that, one evening, I took a gang of people there to see what all the fuss was about.

What a mistake that was. Sure, the clientele was fascinating (Botoxed Eurotrash, mostly), and, yes, the food was all right (though nowhere near as good as my local Thai). But the service? Forget about it. The bar staff had all the charm of third-rate nightclub bouncers, while the waiters were about as interested in their customers as Currys computer salesmen seem to be in their after-sales service.

So, I was nervous about going to the Petersham Nurseries Café, two years and a dozen good reviews after it had opened. But all I have is good news.

Sure, it's an hour from Marble Arch, where I live in London,and it's not cheap (£109 - of my own money, not the PR's - for two, with one shared dish between our children). And the chicken breast I ordered looked suspiciously like a wing (principally, because it was).

Plus, my wife and I had a blazing row over the directions, necessitating three frenzied phone calls to the restaurant to ask them if we were any nearer.

But I am happy to report that it is a great summer restaurant, one of the best in London. The Café sits in the middle of the nursery, which itself is at the end of a curling country lane, making it a perfect setting for long, Bellini-fuelled lunches. Just a few miles from the West End, you feel as though you could be in the middle of Wiltshire, with all the attendant splendour. The outside tables lie under a trellis, and there is wrought-iron and great slabs of mighty oak everywhere.

The food is both clever and hearty - clever enough for you to mention it, but not so tricksy that you feel that it's been designed purely for effect. And the service is impeccable, as the restaurant is largely staffed by polite middle-class girls who are big on pleases and thank-yous and smiles for the old ladies and children.

Trust me: none of them would ever have got a job at Vong. They're far too good for that.

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