Oooh this place is lovely. I have discovered a little piece of paradise in the unlikely corner of SE London that is Penge. Not hugely known for its quiet, tranquil spaces, and more for the frenetic high street with its pound shops and chicken cottages, Penge is hiding a little secret in Alexandra Nurseries. It’s a jewel box of a tiny garden centre that is stuffed full of pretty blooms, unusual potted herbs and eco gardening treats. It also boasts a doll’s house-sized cafe which is just ADORABLE. You can sneak in here and just get away from everything, it’s so quiet.
And so, with a couple of rare hours to myself, I escaped here one sunny afternoon. The entrance tempted me in, like a secret garden:
I entered into a profusion of potted flowers, tastefully propped up on old bits of salvage knick-knackery and second-hand furniture – right up my alley:
I then found the cafe tucked away inside, where you can order proper coffees, fresh herb teas and wonderful cakes. Before I filled my face with cake, though, I got a steadying pea and parsley soup with crusty bread, which was pretty darned good. Nice iced coffee in the glass:
Visitors to the cafe sit at rickety old chairs and tables which are all a bit mismatched and wonky, with grape vines growing overhead and plants tumbling out of pots. There is eclectic crockery that I would gladly give a home to on my mantelpiece: old antique teapots, pretty patterned china, the occasional bit of kitsch. Service is friendly and relaxed. In fact, I think it would be impossible NOT to relax here – you can feel tranquility wafting down onto your shoulders like a lovely warm breeze.
The fabulous upstairs room at the cafe, which has lots of second-hand crockery and unusual books for sale. Just LOOK at those lovely 1950’s formica tables (swoon):
It is, of course, impossible to leave without spending a ton of money on tempting things in the gift shop (soaps, cards, seeds, jams etc) and plants because Alexandra Nurseries has such a pretty and unusual range – I scuttled away with three kinds of thyme for my herb garden and an unusual variety of tarragon, and could have spent at least another hundred quid in there without thinking…
Alexandra Nurseries cafe has a wonderful vibe – a tiny bit like the bohemian travellers’ cafes you might come across when backpacking in countries like Thailand or Mexico. In fact, all they need to do is put up a few hammocks, let a few cats roam around and then you’d be there! I would come here for luxurious snoozes (in my fantasy life where I have oceans of free time and no kids to look after!)
56B Parish Lane
London SE20 7LJ
Sounds fabulous, although I reckon it probably scored bonus points for being experienced CHILD FREE! Even my local commuter train can seem like a zen space when I travel without a kid….!
Oh yes indeed, Phil – I don’t think it would have been quite as relaxing with Tiny Tempah in tow!