Park Café is a funky new addition to Harpenden’s food scene

Park Café, Harpenden

Park Café, Harpenden - Credit: Archant

Have you found the new Park Café in Harpenden yet? It is in a lovely location overlooking pretty Rothamsted Park, just behind the sports centre. Although part of the new Pegasus retirement development, it is very much open to everyone, and I think as the weather continues to improve, will be very popular – it’s perfect for anyone using the park.

It is the most beautiful caf, spacious and light with floor to ceiling windows that can be opened in the summer, so the café and terrace will be one open space. I love the exposed concrete look and funky lighting and they continue the park theme in a modern way, with striking floral wallpaper and over-sized wicker furniture. It is definitely one of the smartest and most instagrammable cafés in the area; a striking departure from traditional retirement home styling.

The kitchen is open so you can see the chefs at work and I spotted a pizza oven, and on the Saturday I went in, pizzas were very popular, especially with the young families having lunch.

The sourdough pizza menu had some unusual options including souvlaki chicken, sirloin steak and one with butternut squash, aubergine and mozzarella, and there is a margarita option on the kids menu too. You can even get a breakfast pizza topped with bacon, beans, mushrooms and egg.

I think the lunch and small/large plate menu has some delicious options such as salmon fillet with caper burnt lemon, roasted new potatoes and broccoli, king prawns with chilli and lime, and roasted butternut gnocchi. My salad with avocado, cherry vine tomatoes, tofu and couscous was well presented and generous, and you can add chicken or salmon too.

Prices for main courses are in the £10–18 range, so more than you might expect for a café, but in keeping with the gastro pubs in the area, and the main courses were generous in size and good quality.

You can also get hearty sandwiches with interesting fillings such as fish goujon, pulled pork and pulled jackfruit, as well as a classic BLT or cheese and ham panini; they all come with vegetable crisps and a side salad.

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Breakfast looks good too, with waffles, buttermilk pancakes, smoothies, sausage sandwiches and granola with yoghurt. The warm banana and chocolate chip bread with cinnamon ricotta sounds amazing! You are also very welcome to just pop in for a coffee at any time, and my Americano was excellent, as was my gluten-free lemon cake. There is a more informal seating area near the kitchen, which is perfect for a quick coffee break.

I was interested to hear that there are discussions about what to do about the huge evergreen trees lining the path right outside the café; at the moment they do block the view of the park, but also offer shade and privacy – it will be interesting to see if they stay or go.

Park Café is open every day 9am–5pm (Sundays 9am–4om) and offers breakfast, lunch and through to afternoon tea and cakes. I love that Park Café is open to anyone, including, of course, residents in the retirement flats. It makes it buzzy and vibrant, and when I went in, there were groups of friends, families with young children, someone working on a laptop and dog walkers.

It is a short walk from the town centre, if you cut through by Busy Bees nursery, and there is a little parking if you need it, although you do need to register your car with the staff so you don’t get a ticket! It’s a fab new addition to Harpenden and I am sure will be very popular