Park's Edge Claudia McKenzie

Park's Edge

There are many restaurants in Herne Hill, but only one offers a tranquil view of Brockwell Park, coupled with vibrant flavours and heartfelt hospitality. Park’s Edge Bar and Kitchen, at 49-51 Norwood Road on Brockwell’s southeastern edge, was born in October 2017. Claudia “Cece” McKenzie and her husband, run this homely spot with exceptional care. The restaurant concept came from a passion to elevate modern British cuisine with tastes and flavors from around the world, with a guiding influence from the Caribbean. Local Greens is proud to partner with a neighboring business that shares our belief in fresh, seasonal ingredients and show why Park’s Edge is our favourite Herne Hill dining experience.

Claudia was born in South London and brought up around Dulwich by her parents, who provided what she describes as a “normal English upbringing with Shepherd’s Pie on a Tuesday and Fish and Chips on a Friday.” Her Jamaican mother often infused her Caribbean spices into these classically British dishes. This culinary heritage has carried through to the restaurant. Claudia recalls early memories of coming home from school and the sweet and savory smells of bread emanating from her mother’s kitchen. This comforting recollection compelled her to create a place where people could feel comfortable – a home from home.  The park is also a source of happy childhood memories, and the Herne Hill location, with the vista of the park, made for the ideal spot to create a dining-living room, a culinary room with a view. A further reflection of how Claudia grew up is in the restaurant’s food. A steak isn’t just a steak at Park’s Edge. It comes with a saffron spiked sauce that evokes far-off travels, delights the palate and causes patrons to intriguingly ask ‘what’s in the sauce?’

The business is also a champion of local, small growers, and allotment growing. Claudia shared how some of the restaurant’s pumpkins, cabbages, garlic and apples have come from Mr. Mack, an 84-year-old pensioner with a magnificent allotment. “We are all about finding people who make our food taste special,” she adds. Meats come from a supplier up the road in Norwood, and many wines from Sussex and Kent populate the list and embrace the best of UK-grown. The search for what’s special extends to the staff. Chef Jacob, who crafted the bespoke recipes for Local Greens, originates from Ghana and is London trained. He previously catered for the sophisticated diners of Morton’s in Mayfair and won a MasterChef-style competition run by the National Theatre. Jacob and the chef team “bring the flavour,” Claudia describes, with ‘a few crazy ideas’ ending up on the menu, such as mushroom ice cream. Park’s Edge is a fresh food kitchen, with the menu changing up on a regular basis, continually allowing the team to test their creativity.

Park’s Edge has spent much of this year adapting to the ups and downs of health and safety regulations, while still maintaining their high quality and standards. Claudia and her team had a contingency plan in place, but like all restaurants, didn’t want to close when the government announced pandemic regulations. They were prepared, and swiftly moved to a delivery and pick up service, featuring restaurant-quality food at home. The change brought uncertainly, but also a sense of community. They began to see new customers, who turned into repeat customers. They delivered food to shielding people, providing human contact for those who couldn’t get out but who’d call the kitchen for a chat. “It was heartwarming to see we were doing a service for the community,” Claudia shares. The restaurant took it one step further and began to honor local people with a peer-nominated, weekly, free meal donation. This gave others the chance to recognise the key workers or individuals who provided support and say thank you with a gourmet treat for them and their household. It was difficult to choose just one person some weeks, and Claudia admits there were times when it was not just one winner. The Park’s Edge family has been fortunate as they were able to keep their doors open and preserve jobs. One staff member made the difficult decision to leave London for Nottingham, but the rest have been busy and adjusting to the massive changes in their duties.

Reopening in July to eat-in customers was another adjustment. While the team had worn masks during lockdown, wearing them in service with diners was something new. Enforcing social distancing and other regulations was difficult, frustrating and uncomfortable. While the general public was sweltering through summer heat waves, chefs in the kitchen also had to contend with masking up amid open-grill flames and roasting ovens. Hygiene is a top priority in normal times at Park’s Edge, and the team has taken on even more measures to sanitise and keep diners safe. Claudia is proud of the visible hygiene efforts, which are also reflected in online reviews, showing above and beyond standards. It has also taken some time for staff and patrons to get used to track and trace, which can be seen as unsettling for some customers concerned about government use of data. We all may be growing accustomed to seeing front of house staff wearing masks or gloves, but it remains a reminder of how abnormal daily life has become. Claudia reflects, “It’s been a roller coaster, but the staff have been very resilient.”

With a new dining experience in place, Park’s Edge continues to innovate and bring it’s own flair to the community. On what would have been Carnival weekend, they hosted a guest chef to create a sell-out, four-course Caribbean tasting event. A socially distanced, chef-at-home offering is available, bringing the Park’s Edge menu to your own kitchen. Claudia reckons this service will be perfect for date nights at home, ‘bubble’ parties and private dining for parties adhering to government guidelines. More guest chef kitchen takeovers are planned for the rest of the year, and the restaurant is fully open for bookings, catering, take away and delivery. Claudia loves seafood and highly recommends coming in for ‘the lobster pot’, a dining event that always books up quickly when it’s announced.  If seafood’s not your thing, there’s always dessert! The menu features very creative combinations with a seasonal focus.

Food cooked with passion and love, by people who care about food, are at the heart of Park’s Edge Bar and Kitchen. Claudia and the entire team strive to create an excellent, fresh, and creative dining experience. Their modern British menu is anything but bog standard, with a flavorsome hint of the Caribbean that invites you to unwind in their laid-back atmosphere. The team would love to welcome you to enjoy seasonal ingredients, interesting wines and cocktails in their cosy living room overlooking Brockwell Park, or delivered to your own living room, right at home.

For bookings, take away or delivery, visit https://parksedgebarandkitchen.com or call 020 8671 0306.

Park’s Edge is also available on Deliveroo and UberEats