Tuesday, September 21, 2010
By now, all of you know that food plays a central role in my life. And while it’s obvious that I am usually reporting on all this good stuff from Italy, maybe you don’t know how I got here? I’ve been coming to Italy since I was a child (and lived here for a few years in the ‘seventies) but it wasn’t until 1988 that I moved here for good. Why? Because I was working on my dissertation on Italian Renaissance Gardens. (And then, of course, met and married my Italian architect husband...but that’s another story)
So, while food may be the most obvious topic of conversation on this blog, gardens continue to play a key role in my life. And when I can combine the two - food and gardens - I am a very happy girl.
In Italy eating ‘al fresco’ is a no brainer. Whether it’s under a shady pergola in the Umbrian countryside, or at a trattoria table in Piazza Farnese, eating outside has got to be one of Italy’s greatest pleasures.
Eating outside in London? A bit more complicated. But maybe since it is such a rare treat, it is that much more precious. During recent trips up to London I had two excellent al fresco dining experiences that I would highly recommend.
I’ve already told you about the great breakfasts we had last week in Marylebone. But on our way back to our hotel one day, we were feeling ‘peckish’ and so stopped in at La Formagerie. This is a jewel of a place, with one of the best cheese selections in town. Next to its large walk-in cheese cave, they’ve managed to pack in a vegetables, coffee and pastries and even serve lunch. Unfortunately the few tables they had were completely full, so we got two lattes to go, plus a big hunk of lemon cake. The sun was shining so we headed just a few yards away to the Paddington Street Garden.
I’m always astounded how well kept gardens are in London, and this one was no exception. We had a lovely bench, all to ourselves, looking over the neatly trimmed green. Paddington is one of those pocket-sized gardens that are scattered all over London, which make it so easy to picnic.
Chelsea Physic Garden
Several people had told me about the Chelsea Physic Garden, so I was really happy when my friend Meg suggested we head there. The garden dates back to 1673, when it was planted as an apothecaries garden, and has been open to the public since 1983. It is still very much a botanical garden, and contains plants from all over the world.
It bills itself as a ‘secret garden’, and very much feels that way. It was like walking into another time and place, and is so far removed from the nearby hussle an bussle of city life that it felt like a mini vacation.
Even though Meg and I had already lunched at Daylesford Organic, we had made sure to leave room for ‘cake’ at Chelsea Physic (although I'd love to go back for lunch). I chose summer pudding, served with a dollop of clotted cream, since it just seemed so English. Another typically English element was the fact that it started to pour while we were sitting at one of the cafe tables set up in the garden. We carried our treat inside, and then continued our tour of the garden in the drizzle, which was actually sort of wonderful.
2-6 Moxon Street
Marylebone London W1U 4EW
Chelsea Physic Garden
66 Royal Hospital Road
London SW3 4HS