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Couple cook up a passion

A LABOUR OF LOVE: Claudia and Barry Butler-McKenzie in their Park Edge Bar and Kitchen

CLAUDIA AND Barry Butler-McKenzie are a couple whose love of food, travel and culture inspired them to open a restaurant that encapsulated all of these things.

The Park Edge Bar and Kitchen, based in Herne Hill, south London is the result.

You would think that because the owners are of Jamaican heritage – Barry was born in Jamaica and Claudia was born to Jamaican parents – that the menu would be full of Caribbean dishes.

However, the food served at Park Edge is a fusion of flavours from the Caribbean, Britain and other parts of the globe.

Claudia explained: “Because we are in London, people are much more open to different cultural experiences and how they receive flavours in food and we wanted to challenge convention.”

To achieve their wish to create food that is unique and memorable, Barry and Claudia teamed British chefs with Michelin-trained Caribbean chef Anthony Cumberbatch.

When asked to describe the food at Park Edge, Claudia replied: “Modern British with a Caribbean twist. It might look pretty on the plate but it’s also hearty home cooking with our Caribbean twist and flavours in it, but very nicely presented.” They have also worked hard on Park Edge’s interior design, which has a quirky but luxurious feel, creating a relaxing ambience by playing their own selection of music.

And their approach seems to be working. Park Edge has welcomed customers from across London and as far afield as Spain and Sweden.

For Barry, the best part of the job is having satisfied customers.

He said: “[I like it] at the end [of the meal] when the person comes up and shakes the chef’s hands and we ask if they’ve had a good time and they say, ‘Yes it’s been wonderful’. That’s what we want. People to come and be happy, leave happy and tell someone else and come back. That is our satisfaction and shows we’ve done a good job.”

Prior to setting up their restaurant Barry worked in project management for a large financial company and Claudia worked in food PR. And together these foodies visited Asia, the Americas, Europe and the Caribbean, enjoying a variety of dishes on their journeys. Though both had good jobs, Claudia was keen for them to run a business together. Once her husband came round to the idea, and decided to set up a restaurant things moved very quickly.

The concept was formulated in December 2016, a site acquired in May 2017 and the business opened in October 2017 and the rest, as they say, is history.

Faith plays a big role in the couple’s lives. Barry said: “We are strong believers. We look to God to guide and protect.”

Claudia added: “In terms of major decisions that we might need to make, we pray over that. I come from a praying family we feel very fortified that we have friends and family that pray over us.”

But the couple are not stopping at having just one restaurant. They are desirous to open more restaurants, and be business role models to other black people.

“With this restaurant I hope we can prove that black business can be successful.

“[I hope] we can act as a template for that and also follow in other people’s footsteps who we don’t know. We don’t hear their names in the media but there are successful black restaurants and business people out there, and we need to see more of that. There needs to be a groundswell of good template for black businesses to thrive in this country and I just hope this restaurant will be part of that movement.”

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