Puneet of Ponsonby: We open a bottle of the Digby Non Vintage Brut Reserve. I take a swig.

Drinking Digby’s epic sparkling wines in the environs and seasonal offerings of the unique and iconic Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, London.

Article written for and originally published by Ponsonby News: http://www.ponsonbynews.co.nz/article-detail/show/3927/

The experience is like being truly inside the music of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, gently whirled and whizzed in violins and cellos, twirled through English country gardens, the scent of roses and herbs permeating the air, the red clay earth at your feet.

I am sharing a glass with Adrian Still, the head chef at Petersham. The restaurant is one of the first to receive the Michelin Green Star award for sheer excellence and sustainability.

Adrian informs me that the owners, Francesco and Gael Boglione, bought the nursery and house 24 years ago. Since then they have grown this hamlet into a veritable utopia of nurseries and gardens surrounding various forms of natural eateries including this incredible restaurant. Around 10 years ago, The Bogliones brought in Chef Skye Gyngell.

It was at Petersham that Skye became renowned for her distinctively seasonal, elegant cooking, creating dishes inspired by what she saw growing and blossoming around her. Adrian tells me that it is simplicity and sustainability that is the key driver. He, himself, has been bestowed the head chef mantle just this year. He seamlessly combines fine Italian cuisine with middle-England pub grub, a sprinkle of his Grandma and Ma’s cooking and a touch of the Orient, and it is fabulous.

We open a bottle of the Digby Non Vintage Brut Reserve. I take a swig. The wine is exceptional. To be honest with you, it blows pretty much all of the coterie of corporatised Grand Marque Champagnes (you know the ones) out of the water. The green sands of Kent are producing incredible pinot noir and the chalk and limestone soils of Sussex lend themselves perfectly to chardonnay. This stuff is the real deal, and I’m a man not easily swayed from my Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve.

Chef offers me a borage and courgette flower fritti – oh my gosh, the sun fills the room as I enjoy the pairing. I feel like I have grown gumboots on my feet and am inside nature itself. Chef tells me how patient you must be in the gardens to harvest good yields of the courgette flowers.

We marvel at the Petersham’s market gardens. Here in Aotearoa, we all know deep down that we will have to transition away from intensive beef, lamb and dairy farming one day, and likely sooner rather than later, and without the luxury of time for the most detailed debate on the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’.

As I gaze out of the windows I think that a transition into a market garden society may work well for us. We will continue to produce from our fertile earth and there is no reason why export cannot continue to flourish in such a culture. And ‘oh boy’ the produce will be so delicious.

In fact, Harry Boglione, the eldest son, has set up an organic and regenerative farm in North Devon. Head sommelier, the effervescent and knowledgeable Raffaele Givanetti opens the Digby Non Vintage Leander Rosé and we are brought Harry’s Haye Farm Lamb with baby gem, mixed beans and mint sauce.

Now this really is quintessential English fare at its very best. The afternoon ambles into early dusk and for a few hours we enjoy life through the wrong end of the telescope.