The 2021 edition of the Michelin Guide Great Britain & Ireland saw the Michelin Green Star awarded to 23 restaurants. This new distinction highlights restaurants at the forefront of the industry when it comes to their sustainable practices. This week we focus on Petersham Nurseries Café in Richmond.
In 1997, Gael and Francesco Boglione moved into Petersham House, a Queen Anne building in a lovely riverside setting, with a 1970s plant nursery in its grounds. Inspired by Francesco’s travels to India and backed by Gael’s love for nature and ability to draw beauty out of the simplest things, Petersham Nurseries opened in 2004; a mix of plants, furniture, antiques and gifts.
The couple’s travels and Italian/Australian heritage play a key part, combined with their philosophy of positive living, which is interwoven into every aspect of their business, from how they treat their employees to the products they sell and serve.
The nursery and garden shop have always been the heart of the business but just as popular are the eclectic homewares shop, the teahouse and the glasshouse restaurant. The latter is a truly delightful spot, whether you sit outside on the lovely terrace or inside at wobbly tables, earth under your feet, surrounded by the scents of bougainvillea and jasmine.
The freshest seasonal produce is used in unfussy, flavoursome dishes with a subtle Italian accent. Herbs and leaves are plucked from their kitchen garden and barely anything is stored – the fridges are nigh on empty at the end of each day and, apart from the daily sorbet, nothing is frozen.
Their menus follow a ‘slow food’ ethos, with a focus on seasonal fruit and veg, responsible sourcing and lowering food miles. Seven on-site bee hives provide honey – as well as aiding biodiversity – and their family run farm supplies meat, eggs and other produce. The farm is Soil Association assured and they are committed to creating a circular, no-waste system. As such, they employ agro-forestry and regenerative methods of farming and use waste from one part of the farm as fuel in another.
They support organisations such as the Marine Conservation Society and Farms Not Factories, and are a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). They garden organically – using peat free compost and sustainable pest and disease control – have their own groundwater source for irrigation, and open mainly during the day, when the glasshouses are flooded with natural light.
Reducing food waste is a key focus, so the kitchen utilises every part of the produce possible. Any food waste that cannot be repurposed, donated or composted, is fed into an aerobic food digester, which odourlessly turns food waste into water, removing the need for waste bins. Coffee waste is sent to bio-bean, who turn it into biofuels and send it back to them to sell as ‘coffee logs’.
They have removed bins from the kitchen and separate all their recycling, working alongside Quantum Waste – a socially conscientious company that use lighter vehicles and collect locally to lower emissions. Through regular briefings, the team are encouraged to think carefully about what they are wasting.
Their chef jackets are made from recycled bottles, they use compostable greaseproof paper and bio-film, and their takeaway/deli packaging is not only made from recycled material but is 100% biodegradable. Smoothie/juice bottles are made from post-consumer recycled plastic, while salad pots and drinks lids are made from PLA, a fully compostable bio-plastic. (Bio-plastics are made by extracting sugar from plants like corn and sugarcane, which is then convert into polylactic acids or PLAs.)
They employ locally where they can (70% of staff live nearby) and encourage career progression by regularly discussing opportunities, providing training, promoting from within and encouraging staff to try new departments or investigate areas of interest. They also subsidise horticultural learning, wine qualifications and management courses.
Green Travel Plan
Petersham Nurseries is located in an area of beauty and sensitivity, beside Richmond Park and Petersham Meadow. To encourage the area’s preservation, they encourage guests to visit via a walk along the Thames/through Richmond Park, a short ferry trip from Marble Hill Park or via the cycle routes from Richmond, Kingston or Teddington.
Each year, they commission transport surveys to monitor the travel methods of their customers and, through their commitment to sustainable travel – via education and the provision of bicycle stands – have reduced customer visits by car to less than 50%. Staff are no exception – they offer a bike scheme and loan of annual travel cards, and only subsidise hybrid taxis.
Green Stars are identified by a new green sustainability symbol and details of their practices are outlined in their online entry. Click here for all Michelin Green Stars in the UK / Republic of Ireland.
See also, articles on Inver, Scotland; River Cottage Kitchen, Devon; and Silo, Hackney Wick.
For 2021, the guide is published in digital format only, both online (UK and Republic of Ireland) and via the iOS app.