Kew Gardens - or to give its full title The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (not that any Londoner ever uses that) - is one of the capital's great days out. Easily accessible on Underground and Overground, the 100 hectares or so feature a forever changing vision of plant life, whatever the season. There are huge greenhouses and special exhibitions.
But where to eat - either lunchtime or evening? Kew Gardens is in the midst of a residential area - there's not a lot of choice while eating in the gardens themselves is best reserved for coffee and cake - for anything else, stock up at the Tesco convenience store near the station.
There are two restaurants. And one, Ma Cuisine, gives all its secrets away in its name. Housed in a former post office, just metres from the railway station entrance, this sixty seater eaterie serves French food in a France-themed décor.
The lunch and dinner menus change regularly although some items are firm favourites. What we ate on our visit was proclaimed "excellent" by both of us.
I started with "Boudin noir en croute" (Black pudding baked in pastry with Dijon mustard sauce) - £7.50. The black pudding was full of flavour while the pastry was both succulent and crackly. My partner had scallops (£9.00) whose cooking and presentation left the food to talk for itself.
My main course was Magret de Canard - £18.00 Roast breast of duck with parsnip purée, served with “petit Cassoulet de Toulouse”. It was the cassoulet which added the value to a good piece of duck. This looked for real, not served out of a tin onto to a bowl. My partner opted for Monkfish - £23.00. Again, a good sized portion which was designed to allow the fish to be fish.
There's a choice of vegetables - and miracle of miracles, you don't have to pay extra - you get two included in each main course.
One minus note. This is not vegetarian heaven. The menu offers a "vegetarian option" but fails to define it, pushing non-meat and fish eaters into second class citizens. Still, I suppose that's French.
We really should not had puddings but we chose Crepe Suzette and a Panna Cotta. We shared both - they were great, especially the crepe! Well, it was not far to the train home.
It was all washed down with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet (£29.00). Wines range from £17.00 to £60.00.
It worked out, including service and coffee, to nearly £120 - excellent value. There's a lunchtime menu which, for three courses, a drink, coffee and service comes to about £30 each. If it's as good as the evening menu, then it's super value.
Ma Cuisine: 7 Station Approach, Kew, TW9 3QB
Nearest station: Kew Gardens
Phobe: 020 8332 1923
Email: [email protected]