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Lunch with Friends at the Quince Tree Cafe, Clifton Nurseries:
Own up – who else has an endless list of places they mean to visit? In my case, I seem to be working my way through the list doing what my mother would have described as ‘Painting the Forth Bridge’. There are always more places to go and more things to do. Sometimes the best catalyst of all is a friend. So, when Karen from Lavender and Lovage suggested I met up for lunch with her and Queen of Preserves Vivien Lloyd, I was delighted that she picked somewhere already there on my list (as well as a stone’s throw from home).
Clifton Nurseries themselves have a reputation locally for excellent quality plants and, for me at least, the added benefit of being really close to the tube. I only have a small roof terrace so I don’t need to hire a van in order to restock each spring. But, I do need to be able to get my purchases home quickly and easily so finding a large nursery so near a Station is a godsend for me. While I can drive and I do have a car, it’s on permanent loan to a friend in the country because the reality of living in London was that I never used it.
I believe there has been a cafe of some sort on the site before, but the Quince Tree Cafe is relatively new, an offshoot of a well established venture in Stoner, near Henley upon Thames. The Quince Tree Cafe has taken over most of the Palm House, a spectacular Glass House that looks out over the nurseries. It’s somewhere that even in Winter manages to feel comfortable, while the huge glass windows make it light and airy on the darkest of winter’s days. Although as a cafe it is informal, the whole venue can be used for private hires and it’s not hard to imagine it scrubbing up rather well for a wedding reception or similar.
None of us were starving, but all of us were tempted – so it was a three way share with the most perfect bacon butty. Excellent bacon in a soft bap with ketchup on the side.
I rather single mindedly picked the mini fishcakes with tartare sauce, salad and chips. I just had a yearning for chips, as you do. Meanwhile my friends both chose the spiced squash ravioli with grilled mushrooms and a balsamic dressing while the marketing manager of Clifton Nurseries picked the soup of the day (mushroom), which looked like a hearty option.
My fishcakes were deliciously light with a nice crispy panko breadcrumb coating. The spiced squash ravioli was pronounced fantastic by both of my companions. And although we didn’t really have space for dessert we were tempted by the homemade cakes and tarts on display and ended up sharing a lemon tart, which was neatly divided for us before serving (to avoid any fights of course)
A wander round the Clifton Nurseries shop resulted in purchases for all of us, although unlike the others who were indulging in some of the wonderful Christmas decorations, I bought fertiliser;) . It’s the sort of place you CAN just wander round and look at the flowers even if you are not planning to buy anything. They also run a series of special events including Christmas Wreath lessons where you can learn to make something like the one in the photo and take it home with you.
And, we bumped into Managing Director Matthew Wilson and I had that weird sense of deja vue – it wasn’t until I was home and checked the website that I realised he presented the Channel 4 series The Landscape Man as well as being a regular on many TV and Radio Gardening programmes.
So, Clifton Nurseries is still on my list – it’s just moved from the ‘must visit’ to the ‘will return’ list.
5A, Clifton Villas,
London, W9 2PH
Disclosure: I dined at the Quince Tree Restaurant as a guest of Clifton Nurseries