Eating Out – The Dysart Arms, Petersham – The Dysart Armsis an elegant Arts and Crafts country inn situated in Petersham Village. It is a family-run restaurant and bar offering exquisite food, music events, a wonderful wine cellar selection, and real ales in a comfortable, relaxed environment.
With an idyllic location overlooking Richmond Park, water meadows at the rear and surrounded by country walks (plus the added bonus of a large car park) The Dysart Armsticks all my boxes for the perfect restaurant location.
“We purchased the Dysart Arms eight years ago”, says Jackie “which was then just a very down at heel public house. It was a new venture for all of us. My son Barny, now the manager and the face of The Dysart Arms had lived in Petersham for 15 years and worked in the pub before in university vacations, so brought good local knowledge and some, but not much, experience with him, but it was greater than ours! We just set out to create what we would enjoy and hoped others would enjoy it too.
“This project was a new learning curve for us all. Our first job was to gut the place. The condition of the building and the décor was tired and dated, with a mock gothic baronial look on the walls, dirty, stained carpets and a unique “Church meets Count Dracula” theme throughout the interior – complete with church pews, hymn numbers, an organ and even a font in the centre of the pub, lovely in itself, but out of place. The building was in desperate need of a refit and this we needed to do on a careful budget.
“I was keen to get the carpets cleared out straight away and sold the church memorabilia to the Sunbury reclamation yard, which ironically was where it all came from in the first place. With all hands on deck, we closed for three months and reopened with our new look in 2007.
“I have always enjoyed interior design and felt a really simple, timeless but contemporary feel was the way to go for this fine, country arts and crafts building, with its lovely detailing. The simple beauty of this building just had to be nurtured and brought out so it could speak for itself. I knew neutral shades would work well with the high ceilings and period features in this great space.”
The finished result is stylish giving a really fresh, open feel.
“Our vision of the menu has developed over time. We wanted to raise the bar, use only the best ingredients, to support only the best farming practices and to produce something really special. I feel we have now successfully achieved this, though we are all bursting with ideas for improvements – this is always going to be work in progress.
“The menu changes subtly daily as fresh herbs and vegetables come in and is cooked to order by Head Chef, Kenneth Culhane (Roux Scholarship Winner in 2010) and his team. Emphasizing freshness, flavour and country values, they collaborate with local producers, south coast fishermen who use responsible fishing methods and artisans who all share their passions. It is wonderful that we and Kenneth are so much on the same wavelength and enjoy working together. It feels like an extended family.
“Kenneth regularly incorporates seasonal foraged food such as Cèpes, chicken of the woods, beef-steak fungus, rosehips, Jack by the hedge, wild garlic and nettles in his menu, adding a unique twist.
“Locally grown produce from our own garden is also a significant influence on our menu,” says Jackie. “The garden provides for the kitchen all year round, with fresh produce including summer courgettes, asparagus and tomatoes, rare varieties of autumn pumpkins and squashes.
“Our drinks selection follows the same theme of quality, with an extensive wine list from all corners of the globe, a unique selection of handpicked local and international beers, as well as, whenever possible, homemade cordials made with fruits from our garden and the hedgerows.
“Music is another important feature,” says Jackie. “We have frequent music performances in the evenings, with jazz piano every Thursday evening, jazz or classical music every Friday evening, and classical music every Saturday evening. Barny, who is a classical musician in his own right, also runs a monthly series of classical recitals on the first Sunday of every month, with an exceptional calibre of performer such as award-winning baritone, Jonathan Sells, who recently performed Die Schone Mullerin.
“I’ve enjoyed working with the family and Kenneth on this business venture. It’s good to work closely as a team with each of us now beginning to feel we are becoming experts in so many fields. On the financial front, it is comforting to know we can rely on each other when difficult decisions arise.
“My husband Nicholas has great vision and the ability to see the big picture, whereas I deal with the day to day events. I attach a lot of importance to the flowers, which says something about our approach. Barny has excelled as manager and loves working with the customers and the team, communicating the things that excite us. We are all perfectionists – which is not always easy!”
So whether your preference is to enjoy the wonders of the outside terrace, the perfect summer retreat for a drink or nibble, an evening of music and entertainment or a tasting menu experience The Dysart Arms should be high on your ‘to do’ list.