Save Our Restaurant


Petersham Love Letters

Over the past few months, we have been overwhelmed with kind words from neighbours, regular guests as well as guests from all over the world who have enjoyed their time at Petersham Nurseries all in support of our Save Our Restaurant campaign.

Here we would like to share some of the wonderful letters that have been sent to us to Save Our Restaurant.

Lisa Gulick, Chef at Petersham 2010-2018.

My name is Lisa Gulick and I moved to Richmond in January 2003 from Canada with my husband Alex who was relocated for work. We had a 1-year-old daughter (Lauren) at the time, so I took time away from work to settle into a new country. It was unexpectedly difficult. Lonely and overwhelmed I dove into exploring my new surroundings, buggy in tow. 

I will never forget the first time I walked into Petersham Nurseries. It was an instant inspiration hit. The colours, the plants, the design, the beautiful, smiling employees in boho dresses and wellies. I was intoxicated by this place that seemed like a haven for the weary. And it was. I went often just to absorb the creativity in living colour. Even after just a wander around the shop, I would leave calmer, inspired, able to do the next thing needed with perhaps a little more flair. In time I had a free afternoon, so I went for my first lunch at Petersham Nurseries. I have always been passionate about food and never shy away from eating alone so there I was, sitting at a table, stunned. This food was special. It somehow expressed the very essence of the place itself. Unfussy, highlighting nature, artfully prepared. I ate in silence with tears in my eyes. 

Fast forward to 2010. I enrolled in a Chef’s program at Ballymaloe Cookery School in an attempt to retrain. I thought I would do some catering or small-scale food production so I could fit it around my (now 2) children’s schedules. It was never my intention to do traditional chef work in a restaurant as I couldn’t see how I would handle the time demands, but my tutor insisted I take a letter to his friend Skye Gyngell (Head Chef at the time) at Petersham Nurseries and offer to do a “stage” (volunteer work which is common in this industry) to see how it would feel. After a few days of work I was offered a job. I still didn’t believe I could work there as the hours were difficult to manage but Skye made arrangements with Petersham for me to arrive late in the morning (after settling my children into The Vineyard School) and then leaving in time to collect them from the after-school program with weekend days being my favourite as they didn’t include that rush. My career that I never dreamed I could have, was launched. I thrived and looking back I am so grateful that my start at Petersham Nurseries has pushed me forward at a rate in the industry that is uncommon simply because of its high reputation. 

Not long after I started at Petersham, I remember working one of our very first evening events. I don’t remember what the event was, but I do remember the care taken to ensure neighbours would not be disturbed. Days before we were told of the “Rules” of a night-time event and how serious they were. We needed to be silent or whisper only outside of the kitchen. No excessive lights to be on. No doors slammed. No dishes thrown into the wash-up area. Bins to be emptied into metal skips with silent care. The list was long! We were giddy with excitement at being in this magical place at night. It was even more stunning at night than in the daytime! How is that even possible? At one point before service started, Skye came into the kitchen while we were cooking and insisted, we turn off the stoves and come into the dining room area. There she said “Look around this place. You are cooking in the most beautiful restaurant in the world.” And we were. We cooked our socks off that night and had a great time doing it. Just before the dessert course was to be served, we realised we didn’t have enough strawberries, so Skye and I rushed to forage in the house fruit and vegetable garden. The need to whisper while balancing torches and frantically picking strawberries in the dark and in the middle of service led to hilarity and remains a story we laugh about it this day. 

I cooked at Petersham Nurseries for 8 years and then went on to cook with Skye Gyngell at her restaurant in Somerset House called Spring. It has a very different vibe from Petersham Nurseries. It is wonderful and challenging but both Skye and I swap nostalgic Petersham stories usually starting with…” remember the time Francesco came to the pass first thing in the morning in his dressing gown and velvet slippers and….” 

So, the thing is, I have worked in the hospitality sector for nearly 15 years now. It has changed drastically. The combination of Covid lockdowns and more recent cost of living (cost of products, business rates, salaries, etc….) has crippled the industry. I believe with my whole heart that the health and vibrancy of a community can be seen and felt in its INDEPENDENT restaurants and shops. The places that hold the heartbeat of an area are the places that both employ its residents and inspire its visitors. Petersham Nurseries has done this consistently for over 20 years. I still go there often just to have coffee and chats with numerous employees who have been there since day 1. It holds on to its employees and that is unheard of in this industry.

I am privileged to travel the world, eating in the best restaurants (on my husband’s ticket, not my chefs pay I might add), and consistently, chefs and foodies and gardeners and interiors buffs from all over the world recognise the name Petersham Nurseries. People plan entire trips to include it on their itinerary. And yet, it is not appreciated or rewarded by its own council. The very council that sees its benefits.

Fast forward to 2020/2021 and that wee baby Lauren who was in a pram on my first discovery of Petersham Nurseries, began her first job waitressing there. She met friends there who have remained her best to this day and she is presently backpacking through Central America with her savings from that very job. So that is the second generation of a Richmond family inspired, employed and pushed forward in life because of working at Petersham Nurseries. I owe it a lot.

Thank you Petersham Nurseries. May you thrive despite the resistance of a few to continue delighting the many.

Lisa Gulick, Chef at Petersham 2010-2018.

Nick Knight CBE, Petersham

Having been born at Queen Charlotte’s in 1958 I was brought straight back to our family house in Petersham where I resided with my family until my father was posted away for NATO. We kept the house and I settling back to live here permanently in 1982 I so I have a huge love, interest and knowledge of the area and felt very privileged to also be able to bring up my 3 children here.

From the moment Petersham Nurseries first opened its doors we have been regular visitors and have held many of our families special occasions there over the years, occasions made all the merrier by the attentive and polite staff, exquisite food and the beautiful decor – it is unlike anywhere else I have been and we never tire of it.

From the very beginning it was obvious that the place was set up and run with huge affection for the plot itself, the local area and residents and its visitors and it has never felt like someone trying to make a fast buck or take an easy route to making a successful business. In consideration and efforts made by the Nurseries over the years, the incredibly high standards of everything they do and to the hundreds of local children who have had or are having their first taste of work there is tremendous and should be applauded, encouraged and helped to be able to keep it open.

Since Covid we have seen so many businesses though out this country collapsing and Richmond town centre has been no different, the high street seems decimated when I drive through it but the Nurseries is huge local attraction, one that I recommend to everyone who is visiting London, I sing the virtues of taking the train to Richmond and walking from there to the Nurseries, it’s such a delightful day out and I can only see that it would have a positive effect on other local businesses.

I have visited Petersham Nurseries for openings, purchasing plants, buying presents and eating meals and I have done that at night, in the day, at weekends and in the week by both car and on foot and it has always been spotlessly clean and I have never found it to be rowdy or had trouble with traffic or been unable to park, in fact in all the time since it opened I have been held up more times behind horse riders than by Petersham Nurseries traffic.

Lastly I have to say that I am very confused and concerned as to who the Ham and Petersham Association are speaking on behalf of in this matter as they certainly do not speak for me or my family. They have never once canvased, written, spoken to myself or my family about our thoughts and feelings towards Petersham Nurseries so I am confounded as to who’s opinions are being voiced by them under the auspices of it being gathered ‘Local Opinion.’

To sum up, I want to whole-heartedly and enthusiastically support their application.

Yours sincerely

Nick Knight CBE, Petersham

Caz Usher, South Yorkshire

I first discovered Petersham Nurseries – because of its restaurant – a little over fourteen years ago. I don’t remember how, but I’m forever grateful that I unearthed this National Treasure and hit the M1 for a maiden visit without really knowing exactly what I was visiting. It’s lovely when a gut feeling pays off. Before discovering Petersham Nurseries, ‘Richmond’ was just a pretty village in North Yorkshire to me (it is also that, to be fair). But since then I have travelled to ‘Southern Richmond’ from my home in South Yorkshire many times; both solo and with family members. Many of my friends have since followed suit. 

I have taken valuable workshops with the resident experts on everything from creating a cutting garden to fruit tree pruning, and credit Petersham Nurseries as being an ongoing inspiration for my love of gardening our own modest plot. I am forever grateful for their influence in showing me how to create a garden for wildlife and inspiring me to plant an orchard; two things I wouldn’t have thought possible in suburbia without their expertise. Of course, no trip to Petersham Nurseries would be complete without a lunch or dinner in their restaurant.

It is magical! And one that we always come away from with that peaceful and happy feeling. Conjured by its firefly glow. Convivial atmosphere. And deliciously original food. I’m always inspired to mirror their plot-to-plate ethos in the kitchen. The trip home is never a drag; just a time to re-play all the moments shared and enjoyed and an opportunity to talk through plans…I look for ‘excuses’ to make the 400-mile round-trip to Petersham Nurseries and submerge myself in their ‘Country in the City’ vibe that its special team has created and offers. 

Whilst Richmond is most definitely an attractive suburb, I truly believe Petersham Nurseries and its restaurant elevates it to being a really special suburb worth making a trip for. It’s that rare destination that I can indulge my love for gardening and nature, break bread with my loved ones in the restaurant, educate myself and then come away from feeling all is well with the world…all is well with the world…surely, there can be no objection to that?

Caz Usher, South Yorkshire 

Nadiya Willington, On behalf of the Ukrainian Refugee Community

Dear Petersham Nurseries Team,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Ukrainian refugee community to express our heartfelt gratitude for the incredible support and opportunities you have provided. Your kindness and generosity have made a significant difference in our lives during a time of great uncertainty and upheaval.

The morning coffee gatherings you hosted, complete with delicious cakes and pastries, have been more than just a treat for our taste buds. They have served as a sanctuary where we could feel a sense of unity and companionship. In a foreign land, away from our homes, you gave us a place where we could gather, share our stories, and find new friends. These moments have been invaluable in helping us cope with the challenges of displacement.  

Moreover, the information sessions on benefits and other support mechanisms available from the UK government have been incredibly helpful. Navigating a new country’s system can be daunting, and your guidance has been a beacon of hope, making the transition smoother and less intimidating.

We are also immensely grateful for the job opportunities provided at Petersham Nurseries. These roles have not only helped many of us to become financially independent but have also given us a sense of purpose and belonging. Working in your beautiful nurseries, surrounded by nature and warmth, has been therapeutic and uplifting. The evening dinners and events have provided invaluable employment for the members of our community who have children or are studying during the day. There are still lots of Ukrainians living in Ham and Petersham and so this source of local employment with above average wages is simply life changing.

Your actions have embodied the spirit of community and compassion. You have not just seen us as refugees but as individuals with dreams, hopes, and the desire to contribute meaningfully to our new community. Your support has been a critical stepping stone in our journey to rebuild our lives.

Please accept our deepest thanks for your unwavering support and kindness. Petersham Nurseries will always hold a special place in our hearts.

With immense gratitude,

Nadiya Willington
On behalf of the Ukrainian Refugee Community