A visit to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond is always special. The beautiful restaurant is set in a glasshouse filled with jasmine and bougainvillea, which instantly transports you from south London to a faraway land. It’s even more magical and romantic in the evenings, when they have fairy lights strewn across the ceiling and you’re nestled amongst lush flowers and greenery.
The service is brilliant and the menu focuses on simple dishes, with lots of colour and flavour. All the seasonal produce comes directly from their kitchen garden and is served with Mediterranean flair – but none of the dishes are overly healthy and there’s plenty of comfort food. I love that you can arrive dressed up in heels or in your muddy wellies after a walk around the park – either way, you won’t feel out of place.
Off Church Lane, Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10
This hidden spot in Shoreditch, owned by Margot Henderson and her chef husband Fergus, is unassuming and very relaxed. Enter via a buzzer on a blue door set in the wall of a Victorian school and you are greeted by a pretty courtyard in an enchanting walled garden. Once you step inside it feels like you could be anywhere – it’s a real oasis of calm far removed from the hustle and bustle of London. You never feel rushed when you’re dining here, and you can even bring your dog to join you outside.
I try something different every time I visit because their menu changes daily and they do such interesting things with seasonal produce, particularly with vegetables – I expect there’ll be some wonderful dishes with peas this summer. The breads are incredible and I’m particularly obsessed with their St John focaccia, which is the one thing I will always order.
16 Playground Gardens, Shoreditch, E2
The River Cafe
A lot of my writing and cooking has been centred around Italy, and making homemade pasta is one of my favourite things to do. The River Cafe is famous for their celebrated take on Italian cuisine, so a meal in their gorgeous riverside garden terrace is at the top of my list this season. It’s across town from where I live, but to me that just makes it even more of an occasion and gives me a reason to break away from my usual go-to neighbourhood spots and make a day out of the visit.
Run by original founder Ruth Rogers, the restaurant’s chefs are renowned for using the finest ingredients and really letting them sing. They put a lot of emphasis on the quality of their produce and I’ve always admired the simplicity in their approach. I would gladly eat any one of their delicious pasta dishes, whether it’s the fresh nettle pasta with butter and parmesan, or the ravioli with zucchini, ricotta and mint.
Thames Wharf, Rainville Road, Hammersmith, W6
Brat’s residency at The Climpson’s Arch in Hackney Wick, which opened last summer, is one of my favourite restaurants, with its wood burning oven, flaming fire pit and the smell of the open grill. Sitting outside on sunny days reminds me of being in Basque country. This is where my group of friends always book when there’s something to celebrate, so it’s really a special spot for me.
The food here is so simplistic and pure – each dish is the best version of itself. Head chef Tomos Parry has a real eye for detail, with a very honest approach to cooking. From the charred peppers to their Japanese and Spanish-influenced crab rice, everything on the menu is delicious. They use a Tuscan olive oil that’s incredible, and the bread with anchovies is not to be missed. The desserts are amazing too, especially their brown bread ice cream. Luckily, the family-style serving approach means you can try a bit of everything.
374 Helmsley Place, Hackney, E8
Sometimes you just want to get dressed up and make going out for a meal a bit of a treat, and when that impulse hits, the terrace at Chiltern Firehouse is always my first port of call. Its upscale bistro vibe offers a slightly more relaxed version of the restaurant inside and it’s one of those places where you can lose an entire day, whether you’re sitting down for a coffee or a five-course feast.
Nuno Mendes’ brasserie menu is pretty faultless – I always order oysters from the cart, and their wood oven sourdough pizza and signature crab-stuffed doughnuts are a must. The terrace is a great place for special events. I’ve been there a few times for birthdays where we’ll have a late lunch that will linger on into the evening. On those days we’ll go through rounds of espresso martinis – my cocktail of choice – before moving onto their dirty martinis, which are truly excellent.
1 Chiltern Street, Marylebone, W1
The Berkeley Beach Huts
Although it’s in the heart of London, The Berkeley’s ever-evolving outdoor restaurant always makes me feel like I’m a million miles away. This season, they’ve taken inspiration from the best of the British seaside with five kitsch candy-striped beach huts. I can’t wait to visit and try their elevated take on classic seafront favourites, especially their five-star twist on fish and chips, fresh-off-the-boat lobster and the Gourmet 99 ice creams.
The Berkeley, Wilton Place, Knightsbridge, SW1