Rasika Sittamparam strolls into Covent Garden’s Floral Court to experience the summery scents and flavours of The Petersham’s organic Italian restaurant
It’s that time of the year when restaurant owners talk ‘seasonality’ and flaunt their choicest produce. So, a trip to The Petersham, which sources mainly from its organic farm in Devon, felt like a natural step into the summer months.
Passing through Covent Garden my first thought was where else you would find such a concentration of garish faux plants, which made stepping into the Petersham all the more memorable as I took in the huge floral displays that trail through the inner spaces.
The menu arrived, simple yet pretty without needing to be ornate, just like the setting; and before I could say aperitif, sommelier Levente dashes in with a glass of Villa Marcello Prosecco with a hint of Chardonnay. I trusted Levente’s instincts and ordered for every course to be paired with wine. I was in capable hands.
Our courses arrived in quick succession, but I appreciated that the staff made an effort to check in to see if we needed the tiniest of breaks, even between the first and the second. This wasn’t overbearing either. Some waiting staff are in the habit of treating you more like patient than patron, but The Petersham struck a delicate balance.
So to starters. The garden fritto of courgette (and courgette flower) was very light and crisp, and most importantly, perfectly salted – a task which isn’t as easy to achieve as it may seem (drawing on the 15-minute training I had once upon a time in Umbria). I was informed that the batter is gluten-free too, which is a nod to the health freak deep within me. This went well with a very drinkable glass of 2020 Azisa from the Mazzei dynasty’s Zisola estate in Sicily which is owned by The Petersham founder Lara Boglione’s in-laws, as you may already know. My dining buddy’s crab bruschetta was light and nicely paired with watercress and a sliver of pickled onion.
I enjoyed my plate of broad bean, asparagus and radish salad with pecorino shavings and a splash of pecorino fondue hidden deep within the dish. I expected a mightily cheesy affair, but I was happy with the chef’s interpretation of a fondue with its garden undertones.
Meanwhile, Levente expertly paired this with a glass of 2020 Lis Neris Pinot Grigio from the Friuli region, which gave even the slightest of sagginess you feel after a blast of umami a gentle lift. It’s like Botox for my generally overworked taste buds, which left me feeling fresh and ready for the mains.
My dining partner was not as ecstatic, however. Her bright green broad bean gnocchi, although beautifully decorated with edible violas, was a slight letdown. There is such a thing as too much pea on your plate, and after tasting, I agreed.
The mains arrived – the Dover sole was very swiftly prepared and served, to our delight. The fish was cooked to perfection and the sauce was perfectly savoury and buttery, although I would have liked to taste just a drop more citrus. The beef fillet arrived and was absolutely delicious with the notes of anchovy in the chicory accompaniment. I washed it down with a superb glass of 2018 Chianti Classico Riserva, this time from the Mazzeis’ Castello di Fonterutoli estate. It was a toast to the Mazzei family’s notable ancestor, Ser Lapo, who I heard authored the first official document to mention Chianti wine.
We were stuffed, but magicked room for not one, not two, but three plates of dessert. We were urged to pick the controversial olive oil ice cream with chocolate and salted honeycomb. It was so good, so good, until the final speck of hardened olive oil arrived in my mouth. The taste was perplexingly neutral but also unmistakably olivy, which I decided needed to be masked with something much sweeter. The mint crumble was stellar in a blackberry semifreddo dish, but the Pavlova was the highlight. That, and the darkly delicious glass of Merlino we were served. I left after a shot of espresso, refreshed, and ready to head back into the urban jungle.