- The Dish: Braai lamb neck, smoked yogurt, lettuce, Brussel tops
- The Place: Kudu, London SE15 2EZ
- The Chef: Patrick Williams
What? Braai is the Afrikaans term for barbecuing, and it’s a grand social event in South Africa. People often converge in the garden at home or in a park to get together for a braai. Meat is whacked on the fire – everything from boerewors (sausage), sosaties (skewers), kebabs, marinated chicken, pork and lamb chops to steaks and possibly even a rack or two of spareribs.
Kudu chef Patrick Williams, who is of course South African, sees using braai as a homage to home. But he is intent on showcasing more unusual cuts of meat – he says you can get a rib eye at any restaurant – using everything from an animal’s neck and shoulders down to the trotters. There is even pig's head tortellini on offer too (that comes with a mushroom and hay broth). According to Williams, roast pig head was a Sunday staple when he was back home.
“We don’t want to use prime cuts, because obviously we are trying to be a bit different, using a cheaper cut that requires a bit more skill in terms of cooking it well. Anybody can cook a piece of lamb loin,” he says.
Foraging is also a part of the ethos, with the team picking crab apples from the park down the road.
Where? In South Africa, Williams worked at La Colombe, currently featured on the World’s 50 Best runners-up list. They used to make a sauce from lamb neck – broiling the hell out of it, killing all the flavour and then throwing it away. “But the meat itself was so tender and delicious that I thought I would give that I go,” he says.
At Kudu, which opened in Peckham this month, the restaurant grills the lamb neck and cooks it overnight in a very heavy lamb master stock.
It’s pulled apart and reshaped with a reduced sauce, which has a bit of lime zest, rosemary, thyme, garlic, pepper and salt, then blanched to give it heavy, dark caramelisation. And if that doesn’t sound exciting enough, it’s served with smoked yoghurt, a lettuce emulsion, Brussels sprouts and a herb crumb with parmesan, garlic, thyme, basil, parsley and panko bread crumbs, which gives it an extra added crunch on top.
Why? While there are a few restaurants in London doing the whole traditional braai cooking, Williams didn’t want his place to come across as just cooking big slabs of meat. Instead, he’s tried to bring a modern take to South African cuisine – something that has been missing on the London scene. Highlighting different cuisines from a continent, rather than lumping them into one homogenous lump, is becoming increasingly prominent in food service and retail, as we move away from general terms like ‘African’ towards greater regionality.
Open-fire cooking is undergoing a renaissance, with a number of trendy London spots embracing the style, including Temper, Kiln and Sophie’s Steakhouse & Bar in Soho. Playing right into that market, braai and its smoky flavours are an appealing side to South African cuisine. Plus, Kudu shows off sustainable cooking with its veg. Exhibit A: Brussels sprout tops, once a delicacy, now rarely seen – probably because they often end up in the bin.
Kudu brings in different SA dishes too, which Londoners might not have experienced before. Williams says while everyone is serving up sourdough, the traditional Kudu bread at the restaurant is cooked in a copper pot and served with melted lardon butter or melted seafood butter.
London’s South African scene just got stylish.