Each month we feature a London mum who shares her favourite places in her community. This month we talked to Kelly who goes by PandaMama on Instagram, a South Norwood mum who tells us what she loves about her hood.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Kelly, and I’m mother to an adorable one-year-old boy nicknamed Panda, because of his mixed heritage, Black, white and Asian. Before motherhood I ran a vintage clothes business, online and in a shop, and put on pop-up market stalls, which I loved and may return to at some point. For now I’m enjoying being a stay-at-home mum (although we don’t do much staying at home!) and embracing this massive journey.
I try to be as conscious as possible in my parenting, and lifestyle. My boy and I eat a plant-based diet, so yes, we are vegan. I like to take the holistic approach to parenting and I’m passionate about the environment. I believe life should be a balance, so I’ll practice yoga and have a glass of wine daily—both keeping me sane!
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Which area do you live in, and what do you love about it?
I moved from East London shortly after Panda was born back to my roots of South London. That said, South Norwood, where I currently live, is completely new to me and I’m enjoying exploring.
I am growing to love Norwood as I learn more about it. I’m surrounded by amazing big parks and green spaces. It has a sense of community as well that is so visible in the summer with street parties, big get-together BBQs in the local parks, local festivals. People seem to know how to party and I love that! It’s also home to the Library of Things—a place to borrow electrical goods to encourage less consumerism.
Where do you like to hang out as a family?
Crystal Palace is walking distance from my home and has a quirky high street with great cafes, restaurants, shops, pubs, plus the famous Crystal Palace Park, which in itself is incredible but there are always cool events happening.
We often go to Crystal Palace Park—we take a walk around the lake and admire the dinosaurs, check in with nature and wildlife. There is a great children’s playground with sand and dinosaurs.
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Another go-to place that is so cool, I cannot sing its praises enough, is the Horniman Museum [read TMH’s review here]. This place seems to have been around forever. I used to go as a child with my school for day trips and, although it’s had a makeover, it still holds some magic for me. The totem pole outside reminds me how tiny I was looking up at it.
The grounds themselves could keep you entertained for the day, with the animals or simply lying in the grass or having a picnic in the summer. It has wonderful gardens of herbs with labels to tell you what is what. On Saturdays there is a small farmers’ market of local produce, from fruit and veg to naturally made skin products. Inside the museum there is an aquarium and four floors with different exhibitions. Some are permanent fixtures and free while others are new and for a limited time. The gift shop always has at least two things I want!
The restaurant has seating inside and out and caters well for all dietary requirements and for all the family (there’s stuff we can eat and I was impressed with the PIP ice lollies, as Panda could have one). We love hanging out here and as you can tell there’s lots to do.
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What are your favourite family-friendly eateries?
A favourite eatery near me is Brown & Green, in Crystal Palace. This place is lovely, the whole vibe. It is very welcoming to families. The menu is great, lots of different-style breakfasts, filling tasty sandwiches and more! I cannot leave without a takeaway piece of cake, and their specials are not to be missed. You can sit in a little cove just for you at the back, by the window if you wanna see the world go by, or in the middle with high chairs provided and guaranteed other families around you. It also has a great notice board—that can be equally important to a geeky research mama wanting to know about fun events and what is happening in the area. The downside is the toilets, which are downstairs and very small. It’s founded by twin mums, which I love (I’m a twin).
Another place I love to go for the outdoor seating when weather permits or indoors is Living Water Satisfies. The cakes here are divine! Their vegan Caribbean breakfast is inventive too. Mostly I love that the cafe/restaurant gives opportunities to women who suffered from domestic violence.
What local activities do you and your family take part in?
Mother and baby/toddler groups are not in shortage in my area. My all-time favourite is mother/baby yoga at InJoy Yoga, which is based in Croydon. It’s fantastic as it is something you and your baby can both benefit from physically, emotionally and mentally. It really does cater for all infant ages, from non-crawling to crawling and moving. There are different stages of classes to run alongside you and your baby’s journey—Birthlight baby (postnatal), mother and baby nurture, and mobile baby, then on to children. The classes are soul nourishing, with a calm, accepting, upbeat atmosphere. I always leave feeling inspired and with a certain warmth. The teachers are carefully selected and fabulous and authentic. You just end up making friends with them and the lovely mothers that attend.
Where’s your favourite place to escape in your area for a little me-time?
For me time, I head to Tulse Hill/West Norwood to The Shout House, the sister salon to Shout Hair in Streatham. I love the catchy, vibrant, circus-themed salon with dashes of vintage pin-up and pinks to make the boys wink. It’s fun, playful and makes me feel hip and youthful, which is needed sometimes! Walking in alone helps me drop the mama layer I need to just be me. The salon is my pamper place. It’s the one place that’s all about me. So yes, can you take my bag and I will have that cup of tea or in this summer heat a glass of water in the cute flamingo glasses (detail is a must).
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Where’s your favourite place for date night?
Date night all depends on the mood. It could be pretty low key—go to watch a film at Ritzy Cinema Brixton. It has a lovely little bar and live music there too.
I love Tooting for restaurants—it’s home to my favourite Indian Spice Village for taste and you’re spoilt for choice for authentic food from that part of the world. If you’re feeling more ambitious, Tooting market is great—it has a selection of eateries to fit any budget or taste and places dedicated to sampling the finest wine, beer and gin! It has a good buzz. After, if you’re up for it, you can continue the night at one of the many pubs with music Tooting has to offer (be warned, some have queues like Tram and Social or an entrance fee).
Or for a more intimate evening and some blues/soul/jazz, I’d head to Hideaway. It’s no Jazz Cafe or Ronnie Scott’s but it’s a South London substitute. You can dine, drink, get in the mood. I dare you not to get romantic!
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Where’s the best place for mums’ night out?
Brixton generally is where I head. It’s not on my doorstep but localish and has a great buzz about it. There are so many bars and restaurants. The summertime has a great vibe and diversity can be found and I don’t feel like I’m an oldie looking in. Spoilt for choice on eateries, you can keep it casual and go to Pop, or have a nice sit-down meal in one of Brixton’s restaurants. It all depends on how many of us there are. Personally, for a more intimate catch-up, I like Brixton village. For food Senzala Creperie has a divine selection of sweet and savoury crepes for all dietary requirements, not to mention ice cream and an equally tempting cocktail menu.
For a few more girls, Brixton Academy is a brilliant venue and has such great acts too. And if the full-on crew’s about, the Rum Kitchen can be fun. The menu, cocktails, music and setting just screams tropical. There’s something for everyone, light hearted for a boogie too. Perfect for a girlie night and you can eat, drink, catch up and dance all under one roof! Plus, at any of the above you’re still never more than walking distance from places to have another drink as you’re equally spoilt for choice with an array of bars and pubs.
Is there a little hidden gem in your area you’d like to share?
My hidden gem—South Norwood Lake. I’m so blessed to have this little sanctuary just up the road from me! This park with its gorgeous lake has saved my sanity many a time, especially in the early days of motherhood. When things get a little crazy, my boy and I come here, and as soon as we hear the sound of water and see the lake with its ducks we instantly relax. There is something so calming about water, maybe because I’m a Pisces. One lap around the lake usually means a sleeping baby too.
There is lots of grass area for picnics and catching some rays in the summer. In fact, it was the venue for my boy’s first birthday picnic as the weather was divine. The park also offers a great kids’ playground with a zip wire, and outdoor instruments alongside your usual swings and slides. There’s seating for parents too, which is a bonus.
But let’s get to the important part, food and drink! There is a kiosk that sells hot and cold drinks, ice creams, sandwiches and duck food—it’s nothing gourmet but there’s a decent range and picnic benches. Then you have The Lakes Cafe. It’s a wonderful space that welcomes babies and children and has activities for them most of the week. The cakes are delicious and suitable for all dietary requirements. The peanut vegan slice is my fave, along with a decaf latte. There’s lots of room for buggies and a play area with toys and sofas to get cosy. The changing facilities are spacious. Be warned, The Lakes Cafe closes at 4pm and only opens on weekdays.
You can follow Kelly on her Instagram at Pandamamalove