Skye Gyngell, Chef at Petersham Nurseries Café

Since its opening in 2005 by Skye Gyngell, this garden café has become one of the most sought-after lunch tables in London, with regular clients including the likes of Madonna, Stella McCartney and Nigella Lawson, and a list of awards such as Time Out’s “Best Alfresco Restaurant” and Tatler’s “Most Original Restaurant”. Originally from Australia, Skye Gyngell worked as a chef in Sydney and trained in Paris before moving to London to work at The French House and The Dorchester. Here, she talks to Chic-Londres about her approach to food and her favourite gourmet addresses in London.

How would you describe the British approach to food and how it has evolved since you became a chef? I think the perception of British food has changed dramatically. Britain is very firmly on the culinary map now, although it wasn’t for a long time and had a reputation for terrible food. While Paris was always considered to be the culinary capital, that is no longer the case, with London restaurants now being well known: over the thirty years I have been working, this constitutes a 100% turnaround.

What is you restaurant’s culinary style and do you have a « signature » dish? The style of cooking at Petersham is quite eclectic and can’t be pigeon holed, as the menu changes almost daily. Our emphasis is on good quality seasonal ingredients: from there, we cook whatever feels right on the day, inspired by the produce that becomes available to us. For this reason, I don’t have a signature dish, and would hate to have to cook the same dishes constantly. Beautiful produce is the most inspiring thing of all: it dictates what we cook.

What defines a good chef in your opinion? To me what defines a good chef is passion, a complete belief that this is the only thing they want to do, an excitement for produce and a desire to learn. Arrogance does not make for a good cook: we never, ever stop learning and it is important to realise that working in a restaurant is not about one person only, but about the team, with everybody’s contribution and knowledge just as valuable. A single chef could no more run a restaurant on his or her own as fly to the moon.

Where do you buy the following in London?

Cheese: La Fromagerie for French, Italian and Spanish and Neil’s Yard for British cheeses.

Wine: Les Caves de Pyrène and Liberty Wines.

Bread: Poilâne, Born and Bread, The Flour Station

Cakes: Home made.

Meat: HG Walters

Deli products: Many of our olive oils and vinegars come through our wine suppliers. Brindisa also supplies cured meats, paprika, dried chillies and pulses.

Fruits and vegetables: Rushtons, La Credenza and Natoora.

Which are your favourite London’s restaurants ? I love Moro, The River Café, Dinings and The Dock Kitchen, a new restaurant owned by a friend of mine.

What is your favourite dish and is there anything you really dislike? I have so many favourite dishes that it is almost impossible to say what it really is, as it changes depending on what mood I am in. The only thing I really don’t like is okra.

What culinary advice do you like to give? I would say first that it is very important to enjoy yourself when you are cooking, but also that this is a craft that needs to be learnt, so you should be patient: if something doesn’t work, try it again another time. And always use the best produce you can afford, for it means that you are already halfway there.

photo-bookskye-471

My Favourite Ingredients, Skye Gyngell’s latest recipe book, is published by Quadrille, £8.99. Petersham Nurseries Café is open for lunch only, Wednesday to Sunday from 12.00 pm to 3 pm (reservations essential): Church Lane, off Petersham Road, Petersham near Richmond, Surrey.

 

SKYE’S GOOD ADDRESSES

La Fromagerie: 2-6 Moxon Street, W1 (Marylebone)

Neal’s Yard Dairy : 17 Shorts Gardens WC2 (Covent Garden); 6 Park Street EC1 (Borough Market)

Poilâne: 46 Elizabeth Street, SW1 (Victoria)

Born and Bread Organic Bakery: East Dulwich Deli, 15-17 Lordship Lane, London (East Dulwich)

The Flour station: available at Waitrose, Selfridges, Neil’s Dairy and John Lewis Food Hall.

HG Walter: 51 Palliser Road, W14  (Baron’s Court)

Moro: 34-36 Exmouth Market, EC1 (Farringdon)

The River Café: Thames Walk, Rainville Road, W6 (Hammersmith)

Dinings: 22 Harcourt Street, W1 (Marylebone)

The Dock Kitchen: 344 Ladbroke Grove, W10 (Ladbroke Grove)