Skye Gyngell, the Australian chef who won a Michelin star at Petersham Nurseries Cafe, plans to open a 120-seat restaurant in central London in late October.
The new venue will be backed by Heckfield Place, a country-house hotel outside London, where Gyngell will become culinary director. She declined to give details of the new site, in Soho, until it is confirmed in coming weeks.
Gyngell quit Petersham in December after winning a Michelin star last year for her seasonal menu based on produce from the garden center in which the restaurant stands. Petersham is known for the quality of the cooking and also for high prices, with starters costing more than 10 pounds ($15.50) and mains closer to 30 pounds.
“I’m really excited to be going where there are lots of neon lights,” Gyngell said in an interview. “It should be more buzzy, with a lower price point, and we’ll hold back tables for people without bookings. I want it to be informal, more mix-and-match dishes than three-course meals.”
Much of the produce will come from the farm at Heckfield Place, a Georgian mansion with a 400-acre estate crossed by the River Whitewater in Hampshire. The hotel will open in March.
Gyngell, 48, has previously said how the Michelin star changed things at Petersham. It became a destination for diners unused to the rustic style of the restaurant, with its wobbly chairs, bare tables and informal service, she told the Sydney Morning Herald earlier this year.
Now, she talks of the honor of winning that star and plays down any suggestion it led to her departure.
“I had the seven-year itch and I stayed on longer because we won the star, which everyone was excited about,” she said. “People said we might get one the year before and we pretended we didn’t care when we didn’t get it, but it was disappointing.
“I’d done everything I could at Petersham. I was happy that it was a good, full restaurant. I never looked for awards.”
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)
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