Will Londoners get a taste for South African cuisine?

A NEW restaurant just around the corner from Buckingham Palace is offering Brits the chance to sample South African food – and for many visitors it’s the first timer they’ve tasted bobotie springrolls, biltong, chakalaka, boerewors and even curries.

The Sunday Times interviewed paid a visit to the bbar restaurant & cocktail bar, which is owned by South African hotelier Beatrice Tollman, whose expertise includes the Red Carnation Group of luxury hotels in South Africa, the UK and USA, Durban’s The Oyster Box and The Twelve Apostles in Cape Town.

Her husband Stanley named the restaurant ‘bbar’ as a tribute to Beatrice’s love for home-grown recipes. Her passion for the kitchen is also documented in her cook book, A Life in Food. It contains recipes passed down through the family as well as creations inspired by her travels.

“There seems to be a demand for South African cuisine in London,” said general manager Ian Powrie, speaking to the Sunday Times. “At the bbar there is a huge demand for bobotie, SA style Cape Malay curries, biltong, boerewors and avocado-based salads.”

The décor also has a tinge of South Africa: from the giraffe print on some of the chairs to the cheetah statue on the edge of the bar and the beaded giraffe ornaments lurking at the window.

Her husband came from a family of hoteliers, Beatrice said, but it was a new industry to her. In 1954, she opened her first hotel in Johannesburg called the Nugget. But she also fondly remembers their second hotel, the Hyde Park Hotel.

“We named the main restaurant there The Colony, inspired by the supper clubs of New York and it soon attracted international cabaret stars and famous guests such as Marlene Dietrich, George Peppard and Michael Caine,” Tollman told lifestyle news website, Belle About Town.

“It was a very exciting time; these famous people stayed at our Hyde Park Hotel! We ran three other restaurants from this same hotel.”