Petersham Nurseries comes to Covent Garden
Managing director Lara Boglione on bringing a taste of the popular Richmond garden shop and cafe to central London
How would you describe the philosophy behind Petersham Nurseries?
Petersham Nurseries is fundamentally connected to nature. It is at the essence of the business, from our horticultural roots, to the seasonality of the food we serve. We encourage positive living through our consideration of the environment and we draw inspiration from its beauty. We have created a brand philosophy throughout the years that is passionate about organic gardening, culinary excellence and ethical and sustainable sourcing.
Tell us about your involvement in Petersham Nurseries.
After my studies at SOAS [The School of Oriental and African Studies], I spent a number of years travelling around India, where I was joined by my father. My time in India played a huge role in the making of Petersham Nurseries as, during this time, we sourced the 'Mysore' paintings and the tatty blinds that hang throughout the nursery today. We built relationships with the village community that produce the shop’s terracotta pots, granite pillars and zinc tables.
When I returned to the UK, I was heavily involved in the business and I took over as managing director of Petersham Nurseries in 2011, although I have continued to work closely with my parents on all aspects of the business.
In 2013, I founded Petersham Cellar with my husband Giovanni Mazzei. Petersham Cellar is an Italian wine merchant and wine club, which promotes an ever-evolving selection of hand-picked Italian wines. It curates and supplies the wine offerings in all Petersham Nurseries restaurants and for the first time ever, Petersham Cellar will be available in a retail environment within the new delicatessen at Covent Garden.
What has it been like taking over the family business?
It has been the most natural succession. Even though I am managing director of the brand, the whole family is integral to the business. My parents are so good at picking up on the finer details, building an individual aesthetic and creating the overall feel of our spaces. My youngest sister, Ruby, has been part of the buying team and Harry, my brother, supplies as much produce as possible from his farm on the Devon/Dorset border. We have wine from my husband's family estates in Italy. Giovanni has put together our wine offering with our team at Petersham Cellar. Anna, my sister, has an interactive theatre and production company called Petersham Road and will be putting together all of the entertainment for any events we put on. We each bring our own interests and specialities to the business.
Why did you want to open Petersham Nurseries in Covent Garden?
The brand has grown and developed over the last 13 years and it felt like the right time to take the next step. From a personal perspective and as the next generation to take Petersham Nurseries forward, it is an exciting new embodiment of the brand and the first step out of the garden walls.
Covent Garden seemed like a natural fit to open the next Petersham Nurseries in London. Covent Garden's history, humble beginnings and connection to nature were key for us. We like to think that we're bringing the garden back to Covent Garden.
The site itself had to be right too, and when we saw this space, I couldn't imagine a second Petersham Nurseries elsewhere. It's a Grade II-listed building, filled with natural light from majestic Victorian atriums and centred around a courtyard, Floral Court, which our restaurants will flow onto for alfresco dining in the warmer months.
We describe Covent Garden as a 'lifestyle destination' as it will have various elements that incorporate many different areas of our daily lives. There's a delicatessen where you can pop by for a coffee or pick up everything you require for a dinner party – including wine from the cellar and flowers from the florist. The shop has beautiful pieces both for the home and garden, and offers a wider variety of products and ranging price points than we've had previously in Richmond. The two restaurants and bar, which will all open later, will be a place to meet with family and friends and the courtyard will offer alfresco dining and a space to sit, stop and relax.
Nature is so important to the experience at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond. How do you go about approaching this when in the middle of a city such as London?
Our intention is that we can retain the seasonality and spirit of Petersham Nurseries in Richmond and bring this to Covent Garden. We're not looking to recreate the original Petersham Nurseries but translate its values into an urban environment.
As in Richmond, we have created a destination that encourages you to step back and embrace a lifestyle of positive living. Visitors to Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden will find a place of calm where you can reconnect with nature, whether it's in the florist, outside in the courtyard surrounded by seasonally evolving horticultural displays or through the food served in our restaurants.
Sitting within the shop, the Potting Bench is an interactive green space that demonstrates florals and horticultural creativity. The Urban School of Garden Inspiration also holds regular events and demonstrations led by head of horticulture, Thomas Broom-Hughes. We have updated our offering for a more urban setting, being mindful of smaller spaces in central London.
What can customers expect from Petersham Nurseries Covent Garden’s restaurants?
We will have two restaurants, The Petersham and La Goccia. The Petersham will offer a refined, a la carte menu. Executive chef, Simon Whitley will oversee menu creation in collaboration with the culinary research and development team. Respecting the Slow Food philosophy, the offering will be simple and seasonal, with a focus on quality ingredients and Italian flavours. A 'Petersham' twist on afternoon tea will also be served.
At La Goccia, visitors will be able to enjoy an extensive menu of small plates or 'cicchetti' as described in Italian. There will be an open grill and wood-burning oven, which will offer a sense of drama. La Goccia Bar will have a lively and botanical atmosphere, serving nature-inspired cocktails.