Five of the best South African restaurants in London
While there are North African restaurants galore, the South African food scene in London is lesser known. Here Caitlin tells us the best places to try the great plates of South Africa in the city.
By Caitlin Butler
South African food is a serious business. The barbeque, or braai in correct South African terminology, is the holy mecca of mealtimes; it’s not uncommon for families to celebrate Christmas by firing up their braai in the sun.
Spices, flavourings and seasoning abound, a throwback from the many cultures who have made their home there. South Africans cook a lot of meat. Spiced circular sausages (boerewors) and cured, dried meats (biltong, often made from boar or ostrich) are treasured staples. Sweet treats aren’t neglected; a favourite dessert is melktert, similar to a Portuguese custard tart.
South Africa is a country of immigrants. The many curries, stews and the national dish Bobotie are varied and vibrant - mirroring perfectly the Rainbow Nation itself.
But no one needs to ship out to the tip of the African continent to get some sunshine-filled food. Sure, a Nandos, which was born in South Africa, can be found on pretty much every high street. But for something different to peri-salted chips and chicken, here’s the best places to find a braai in the capital.
Shaka Zulu, Camden
London's largest South African restaurant is huge. It spans two floors, and as well as food and drink is basically a sort of low-key bar and club. Their menu takes inspiration from the braai, including regional grills such as ostrich, zebra and buffalo.
Be warned - the decor really goes hard on the ethnic theme. It’s a tiny bit much if you’re not into bejewelled statues of leopards or carved wooden ceilings. The food looks tasty though - they offer crocodile cigars (as in sticks of crocodile meat, not things you smoke), boboties and tasty potjies. A slab of crocodile or zebra steak will cost you upwards of £30.
Shaka Zulu, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, Camden Town, London NW1 8AB
2. Hammer & Tongs, Farringdon
This classy kitchen focuses almost exclusively on barbecuing. Their beer bread, marinades and chutneys are all homemade, and the centrepiece of the place is a three-metre long barbecue that uses sickle bush hardwood imported from Namibia.
Huge BBQ aside, the setting is a low key and simple (no bronze warrior statues here) and the menu is also fairly straightforward. Looks good though - veggie friendly as well. Prices range from chicken or pork skewers for £7 to a £22 for a bowl of curry sheep chops, with pricier items including steaks and other meats.
Hammer & Tongs, 171 Farringdon Rd, Clerkenwell, London EC1R 3AL
3. The Meat Co, Westfield, Shepherd’s Bush
The Meat Co, which has seven restaurants across five countries, has a branch in London’s Westfield shopping centre. Although not the most subtle of surroundings, the food itself is reasonably tasty, if incredibly meat-heavy (as the name suggests). Their specialities include slow braised oxtail, a traditional African dish, and boerewors. They also serve a selection of steaks and other meat dishes.
The Meat Co, Ariel Way, White City, London W12 7GA
4. High Timber
High Timber have got their presentation down to a T - in all regards. Most importantly, their food presentation is super, but they’ve also nailed wine and decor. The spacious restaurant is basically all windows, with a sweet view over the Thames and the Tate Modern. The founders are of the Jordan Wine Estate in South Africa, so the quality of the vino will be reasonably spectacular.
High Timber, Broken Wharf House, 8 High Timber St, London EC4V 3PA
5. Kudu, Peckham
Run by a couple who have South African roots, this undoubtedly bougie place is also somehow the most reasonably priced. The interiors and colour scheme are super tasteful and they have a specific, designated vegetarian menu (!). Two courses on a Friday night cost £16.50 and three cost £19.50.
Kudu 119 Queen's Rd, London SE15 2EZ