Family means different things to different people. To some it’s your parents, kids, nephews, nieces, and that aunt who will repeatedly enquire whether you ‘got a chance to watch The Durrell’s yet, because it really is very lovely’. For others it’s that adoptive group of people you can’t live without where your family tree would read like ‘met in smoker’s area in 2008’ and ‘became codependent after harrowing trip to 1-star Berlin hostel’. But whatever family means to you, there’s no denying that you miss the shit out of them when you haven’t seen them in a while. That’s why you need a restaurant that can facilitate three-hours of catch-up chat and excellent food to feature in some brand new memories with your favourite humans. Restaurants exactly like these.
THE OUTDOOR SPOTS
There are restaurants that have a nice garden, and then there’s the café at Petersham Nurseries. Arguably the most charming restaurant in all of London and also the most likely to get commissioned for a remake of Anne of Green Gables, it’s set inside a giant greenhouse in Richmond that feels a million miles away from busy London. Yes, the seasonal Italian food here is expensive, but it’s also fantastic and worth splashing out on for a special occasion (see: reuniting with your favourite people on the planet). Turn the reunion meal into more of a day-trip with a wander around the nurseries before your meal, and follow it up with a stroll through Richmond Park.
On the right sunny day and with what we’re lovingly going to call a keen imagination, the terrace of this Chelsea restaurant feels like it could actually be on a beachside in Santa Cruz. Is that the 65 to Kingston? No. It’s a big, red fairground ride with added honk-factor. Just pretend, okay? There’s something about their cute, foliage-packed terrace that makes us feel like we’re on holiday and seeing as a family vacay is probably not on the cards right now, it’s a lovely substitute. The menu is full of Peruvian-inspired dishes like trout cooked in banana leaf, aji panca squid, and sea bass ceviche, but we’ve got a real soft spot for their daytime vegetable brunch offerings.
Mac & Wild
Mac and Wild not only serves one of London’s best burgers, it’s also an excellent excuse for your dad to crack out his Braveheart impression. And we all know how happy that makes him. A Scottish restaurant that champions fresh produce from the Highlands, you’ll find everything from truffled mushroom mac and cheese to ‘haggis pops’ to big juicy steaks on their menu. The real star of the show here though is their half-venison, half-beef Venimoo burger that comes covered in a top bearnaise. Tucked behind Oxford Circus on Great Titchfield Street, it’s a great central location for a little pavement dining without being too overwhelmingly busy. Oh, and get the deep fried Mars bar.
Sure, there was a time when the idea of being trapped on a boat with your family sounded like it would be a live replay of the last hour of Titanic only with your mum offering you an anti-seasickness tablet every ten minutes. But then came lockdowns and travel restrictions and suddenly you’ve all realised you get on pretty well. Is that down the mute function on Zoom? We couldn’t possibly speculate. But what we can say is that a six-person table up on on the deck of one of London Shell Co’s boats sounds pretty fantastic. Expect Carlingford oysters, big fish platters, and plenty of sparkling wine.
See, now the difficult thing about this arguably great restaurant is that every time we go there we think ‘I wish my garden looked like this’. Actually, in all honesty we think ‘I wish I had a garden’. But anyway, garden envy aside, it’s hard to fault this little secret-garden spot on Kingsland Road that’s a proper crowd-pleaser of a restaurant. The food here is strictly seasonal so the menu changes regularly but you can expect things like chestnut mushroom pappardelle, swordfish, and lamb rump, as well as plenty of light bites if you want to opt for a sharing situation. Will the night end with you using distraction techniques on your sibling and legging it with the remnants of the salted caramel tart? Probably, but at least you’ll be legging it through a very lovely garden. Mind the flower pots.