South African cuisine takes centre stage at a restaurant in London. Situated near Buckingham Palace, bbar serves everything from boerewors to bunny chow.
A hop and a skip away from Buckingham Palace in London lies bbar, a cocktail bar and restaurant offering an array of South African dishes. Think bobotie springrolls, biltong, chakalaka, boerewors and Cape Malay curries.
It is owned by South African hotelier Beatrice Tollman, whose expertise, along with that of her husband, Stanley, extends to the Red Carnation Group of 17 luxurious hotels across South Africa, the UK and US. It includes Durban’s The Oyster Box and The Twelve Apostles in Cape Town.
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.
The South African influence
“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.”
Afternoon tea, usually quintessentially British, is given a South African twist with the inclusion of mini bunny chows.
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.
The start of a hotelier career
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 (e.g. Petula Clark and Trini Lopez) 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.”
No day was ever the same in the hotel industry, she said, which gave her great enjoyment.
Her love for food
According to Powrie, bbar is to showcase Beatrice’s recipes and it is a thank you from Stanley for the hard work during the early years of business.
Beatrice firmly believes food brings people together. “Gathering friends and family together for a fantastic meal is a bonding experience and helps maintain close relationships in a world where everyone’s lives are getting increasingly busy.”