London’s relationship with Caribbean food has until recently been rather one dimensional.
There are plenty of takeaway joints offering their own spin on ubiquitous Jamaican dishes, jerk chicken and rice and peas, and national staple, ackee and salt fish, or in the case of Trinidad – doubles.
The street food revolution has paved the way for change in the form of the pop-up, with solid examples of intra-Caribbean fusion but few permanent restaurants have made strides to move the cuisine on from long established, self-imposed culinary confines.
That is until the emergence of Park’s Edge Bar & Kitchen, which catapulted itself on to the scene 18 months ago, calling trendy enclave Herne Hill home.
Taking South London by storm, with a fresh outlook and fine dining approach, the British menu showcases a lovingly-crafted collection of seasonal dishes, underpinned by Caribbean flavours, and delivered with the modern palate in mind.
Location plays a huge part in the delightful dining experience created here, with magnificent views over one of the capital’s prettiest green spaces, Brockwell Park.
Lighter evenings make this just the spot for alfresco brunch or lunch at the weekend, or as the warmth of the day turns into evening, sun downer cocktails.
Appreciation of good food requires use of all our senses, the first being sight, before moving on to sound, smell, touch and taste. It’s clear why this restaurant been taken to the hearts of local residents and out-of-towners alike.
Seated, I find myself in the most beautiful surroundings, mesmerised by the back wall freeze of tropical birds, atmospheric lighting and well-placed, high furniture, coming together to create an intimate atmosphere that leaves you feeling as if you’re dining alone, even when the place is full.
Staff are friendly and unobtrusive, but happily walk you through the new spring menu, which surprises, delights and tantalises in equal measure.
Caribbean undertones give a nod to the heritage of owner Claudia McKenzie, using spices and seasonings from the islands to enhance and offer a modern take on British classics, such as vegan-friendly Sweet Potato and Leek Wellington, with a wonderful chilli kick.
Even as a meat eater I found it impossible to resist.
The dish was a serious match for my companion’s carnivorous punt. Did I miss the inclusion of meat? Not for one second, with crisp pastry covering a juicy vegetable centre, enhanced by the most delicious and velvety gravy, that while vegan, could easily have been mistaken for meat, with the depth and richness of flavour.
A massive thumbs up from me. Available every Sunday, it’s served with all the usual roast dinner trimmings, including crunchy roast potatoes, cauliflower ‘cheese’ and piled high with fresh veg.
Dining a deux one Sunday, we began with a couple of small plates, hugely innovative and action packed with gutsy flavours.
Crispy lamb belly, pomegranate ‘grenade’ hot sauce, minted yoghurt and pea shoots was off the scale in taste terms but not for the faint hearted – juicy, melt-in-the-mouth meat that disappeared from the plate.
My companion was left feeling very pleased (might I say, smug) with his choice. Another hottie of a dish, in both senses of the word, peppered calypso garlic shrimp, with Scotch bonnet sauce, coconut and sourdough bread had my name all over it.
Fresh, wonderfully soft fish, doused in a fiery sauce that was slightly tempered by the addition of coconut but not too much, which for me is a good thing.
The standard of cooking far outweighs the £23.50 price tag for Sunday’s two-course set menu, one of the plus points for lunch in suburban London.
There are always two roasts on weekly, corn fed roast chicken, roast potatoes, purple broccoli, spring greens, carrot puree, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and gravy fit the bill nicely for my companion.
Vegetarian and vegan options are plentiful and inventive, grilled aubergine, smoked puree, spiced battered okra, jackfruit and Caribbean green seasoning, just one example.
Desserts are carefully considered and expertly crafted by the skilled kitchen team, including chocolate and peanut butter millionaire shortbread and stout ice cream.
A proud champion of British wines, Park’s Edge serves sparkling and still wines from vineyards in the south-east and south-west of England, with chef’s pairing suggestions readily available.
Other big plates that caught the eye, included torched sea bass, olive oil mash, samphire, saffron and wild garlic dressing, and roast Shropshire chicken for two, smoked Scotch bonnet caesar dressing, Jersey royal, hen yolk and asparagus salad, with coco bread.
Park’s Edge offers dinner in relaxed yet elegant surroundings six days per week, and brunch and lunchtime dining at weekends.
Open Tuesday-Thursday 6pm-10.30pm, Friday 6pm-11pm (food orders up to 9.45pm), Saturday 10am-11pm (food orders up to 9.45pm) and Sunday 10am-7pm (food orders up to 6pm).
Park’s Edge Bar & Kitchen
49-51 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, London, SE24 9AA.
Tel: 020 8671 0306.