I have a lot of love for the neighbourhood restaurant, quite possibly because I have a horror of central London on a Friday or Saturday night.
So when Stef (our illustrious Editor in Chief) and I went to try Park's Edge of Herne Hill's vegan offerings at their omnivorous establishment I was already pretty pleased by the location.
However, it transpires that Park's Edge isn't just another friendly neighbourhood restaurant, it is in fact a jewel of a place.
The interior is lovely with a combination of exposed brick, peacock blue upholstered chairs and banquettes and elegant Victorian inspired wallpaper that is fun, unfussy and pleasing to the eye. At a glance you can tell that this is a restaurant founded on a well thought out and cohesive vision; a place that likes to take a classic dish and reinterpret it.
This impression was confirmed by the cocktail menu where classics such as a bourbon old fashioned and martini received the Park's Edge treatment and became 'On The Edge' (£8.50) - with bourbon, white vermouth, vanilla syrup, coffee beans and bitters - and 'Spicy Martini', which was literally spiced up using a tequila base and mixed with passionfruit, Cointreau, lime juice & chili syrup (£9). Both were delicious but Stef agreed that my Spicy Martini was the most interesting of the two.
If you are more of a wine drinker, you won't be disappointed as their list is well thought out and offers wines from several regions, including France, Italy, Australia and Portugal.
Before I get on to the food I need to make a special note of the front of house team who delivered a master class in friendly, attentive service. These guys were not showy with their consistently good service nor were they wooden and overly formal. They were the Goldilocks standard of service: just right.
Now to the main deal, the food. After being vegan for the best part of two decades I find it hard to get excited about hummus. Even really good hummus.
So whilst I was expecting to enjoy the beetroot, spiced walnut hummus with stem ginger dressing and flatbread (£6.75), I was not prepared for it to be one of the most delicious things that I had eaten in months. The garlic was punchy but the earthy flavours of walnut and beetroot totally balanced it. The texture was perfect (not too smooth but not chunky) and the infused oil kept the flavour in your mouth delivering a full and satisfying hummus-based experience.
We then moved on to the main course with some excitement as it had become apparent that Park's Edge was in the business of blowing the barn doors off expectations. Out came the salt baked celeriac steak on celeriac puree and served with crisped and steamed kale with a pear, pine and dill oil (£14). This was a thrilling dish, neither Stef nor I had had salt baked celeriac before and the flavour it imbued the celeriac with was subtle and intense at the same time with hints of smokiness. The celeriac puree was very smooth and the pear, pine & dill oil was complex and complimentary. The crispy kale added the perfect amount of crunch and texture to the dish.
Then on to dessert! Now this is often where the wheels come off in the omnivorous establishment. You invariably end up with a dry brownie or an uninspired apple crumble, not here! While what we were presented with may have been inspired by an apple rhubarb crumble and custard, it was a whole new thing. Topped with slivers of dehydrated apple crisps sprinkled in matcha powder, a spiced apple compote sat next to stewed rhubarb which lent sharpness to the sweet apples and cut through the vegan cream that surrounded it (£6.50). The crunch of the apple crisps lent a pleasing counterpoint in texture to the otherwise comforting mushiness of the dish. This was an off menu dish too. The chef had prepared it especially for us, after being alerted we were vegan. If that's not commitment to their customers, I don't know what it is.
Vegans are catered for on Saturdays and Sundays too, with their vegan roasts (most recently Spiced Squash & Braised Hispi) and those following a gluten-free diet are in luck too as there are several options on the menu.
This south London eaterie has only been open for four months but it's already popular and has a loyal clientele. Expect it to get even busier in the summer, thanks to its proximity to Brockwell Park (hence the name).
Park's Edge is a cosy and classy neighbourhood restaurant that is low key enough for jeans and pretty enough for sequins. The food, however, is full on high end and frankly, deserves your best chandelier earrings.
Location: 49 – 51 Norwood Road, Herne Hill, London SE24 9AA
Best for: Intimate meals with friends and perfect for date night