Here’s how to do The Petersham. Go when the forecast is for sun. Book an early table and ask to be moved outside (it’s first come, first served). Because while the alfresco tables of this central London offshoot don’t have quite the magic of the bucolic garden centre original, we’re still talking about a leafy landscaped courtyard tucked away from Theatreland’s drama. Tip two: order the chocolate mousse. It had a deep, silky intensity, flattered by a sprinkle of salt, plus small shards of sweet, soapy honeycomb and a firm scoop of olive oil ice cream. It’s dreamy.
The rest of the smart, Italian-leaning menu is self-assured, competent stuff, but so it should be at these prices. Mains (lamb, roast plaice) hover around the £25 mark, but it’s the starters (gnocchi, burrata, for around £12) and sides (around £6) that’ll make you wince. And while the original Petersham Nurseries café is the kind of special-occasion spot that can get away with leeching your cash off you, this branch has a whiff of ‘corporate development’ that no amount of dramatic floral arrangements, indoor trees or battered mirrors can mask. The ceiling looked like it belonged in an office and the lights were too bright. But sit outside, on a sunny day, and you still won’t care.