This truly is a ‘Secret Garden’ and much less celebrated than Kew in West London, although Chelsea is London’s oldest botanic garden and a unique living museum. Situated in the heart of London, Chelsea Physic Garden has long been a centre of horticultural education. It was founded by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London in 1673. These were the forerunners of our modern high-street chemists, and they relied on herbal remedies rather than chemical compounds. Here, apprentices could study the medicinal properties of those invaluable plants. Dr. Hans Sloane, after whom Sloane Square and Sloane Street were named, purchased the Manor of Chelsea from Charles Cheyne. About 4 acres was leased to the Society of Apothecaries for £5 a year in perpetuity.
The location was carefully chosen to take advantage of its proximity to the river which creates a microclimate crucial to the survival of many exotic plants. A pond rock garden was constructed from a variety of rock types, including stones from the Tower of London. This structure, completed in 1773, is listed Grade II and is the oldest rock garden in England on view to the public. And in 1983 The Garden became a registered charity and open to the general public for the first time.
So that’s the Garden and all very nice but this isn’t a gardening book, although it does offer tips and ideas. It’s about a café offering delightful refreshments to visitors. Well, one would hardly expect just a cuppa in the potting shed when the Patron is HRH the Prince of Wales. One would hope for some classic dishes using seasonal ingredients.
The book Tangerine Dream Café is stunning and a joy to anyone interested in gardening or cooking. The pictures take one through a year at one of the most respected gardens in the world. There are images of misty mornings, drifts of snowdrops, gnarled ancient trees, manicured topiary, and plates of tempting food.
Chefs Limpet Barron and David Hughes have not limited themselves just to British fare. After all, many of these plants hail from far beyond our shores. Many of our common fruits and vegetables do not originate in Britain so it’s reasonable that the recipes reflect a little culinary diversity. Kedgeree, Seville Marmalade, Tunisian Citrus and Almond Cake, and Amalfi Lemonade are all here, but there are plenty of home-grown dishes as well.
Beef and Ale Stew is a real old-fashioned winter warmer – a slow-cooked potful that can be made in advance and reheated. Rustic, hearty and good enough to present to dinner guests. A pile of mash, perhaps some crusty bread and a bottle of red and that’s Sunday lunch sorted.
Tangerine Dream Café – A Year in Chelsea Physic Garden is a beautiful book about a unique and historic garden but it’s also a striking cookbook with well-chosen recipes that reflect how we eat, or would like to, these days. It’s a visual and gastronomic treat, and it incorporates a perpetual calendar in which to record those special dates such as seed-sowing, and reservations for the Tangerine Café.
Tangerine Dream Café – A Year in Chelsea Physic Garden
Authors: Limpet Barron, David Hughes and Sarah Charles
Published by: Chelsea Physic Garden
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018