Having tried a multitude of international cuisines that London has to offer, I must admit that apart from the odd bunny chow, I have never experienced proper South African cuisine, hence I was excited to visit Bbar, a South African-inspired restaurant and bar in Victoria. Located opposite the Royal Mews of Buckingham Palace, it is run by the family-owned Red Carnation Hotel Collection. The interior is contemporary with a touch of safari chic to suit the theme, featuring animal-print designs on furniture and tableware, ethnic carvings, and walls lined with vintage wildlife photographs.
They had an interesting selection of cocktails, specially created by Bbar’s expert mixologists – I was recommended the Watermelon Mojito which appeared to be a hit amongst their guests that it made a comeback onto the menu due to its popularity. Topped with crushed watermelon, it certainly tasted as refreshing as I had imagined. Sarah ordered the intriguing Don the Beachcombers Zombie, a delicious rum-based concoction mixed with pineapple juice and passion fruit syrup. In the mood for something bubbly as always, we later ordered some Lanson champagne-based cocktails, the Twinkle and the Valencia which I really enjoyed, mixed with apricot brandy, orange juice, and orange bitters.
Many of their mouth-watering recipes were originally created by Red Carnation founder, Beatrice Tollman, a highly acclaimed chef before she evolved into the international hotelier of today.
They recently revamped their menu and we were lucky enough to sample a sumptuous array of popular dishes from their extensive menu. We tried four different varieties of their beef biltong, a traditional South African dried, cured meat, often eaten as a snack; Original Biltong, Peri Peri Biltong, BBQ Biltong, Garlic & Cracked Pepper Biltong. The Bobotie spring rolls contained an aromatic beef mince blended with Cape Malay spices – we were also introduced to the South-African way of eating them which was to place the Bobotie roll on a piece of lettuce with some carrot and cucumber, rolled them up and then eat them together.
The crispy Cajun style calamari was served with a burnt lemon, garlic sauce, whilst the Cape Malay chicken satay had been marinated in a flavourful mix of coconut milk, garlic, ginger, honey, lime, and soy, accompanied by a peanut dip, a similar concept to what we usually have back home in good ‘ol Malaysia. The mac ‘n’ cheese balls tasted just as good as I thought they would be, and one of my favourite starters was undoubtedly the 24 Karat Gold (because we all need a bit of luxury in our lives every now and then!) butter buffalo wings, marinated with a dry rub and served with a blue cheese sauce.
And of course we didn’t miss out on trying the Braaibroodjie, the South African version of a grilled cheese sandwich, paired with Mrs Ball’s Chutney.
We then progressed on to trying an equally tantalizing selection of the mains. I have always been a fan of buttermilk fried chicken, and the “Son of a Gun” Burger Buttermilk Chicken certainly hit the spot, topped with a crunchy spiced coleslaw, jalapeños, and sandwiched between a sweet brioche bun.
The Russian consisted of a thick South African Kielbasa Sausage with burnt onions, ketchup, and mustard, wrapped in a hotdog bun and served with a side of French fries.
It has been a while since I last had a nice, thick salt beef sandwich, and the London Salt Beef Sandwich was a good fix, freshly prepared using Henson of Smithfield Market Salt Beef who has been providing London’s best salt beef since the turn of the 19th Century.
For those of you who love their meat, don’t forget to order the juicy and tender BBQ beef short ribs, served with a side of charcoal-grilled corn on the cob, and sweet potato fries. They also kindly prepared some mini bunny chows so that we could try the different fillings, which included butter chicken, Durban lamb curry, and Cape Malay vegetable curry, served with some fragrant rice. It definitely made me reminisce about my first time trying a bunny chow years ago. To ensure that we achieved our 5-a-day, we also shared some BBQ chicken salad with avocado, roasted tomatoes, crispy bacon, and avocado mayonnaise.
Even though we were both retreating into the state of a food coma by then, thankfully we still had space for dessert – because everyone knows that we all have a separate stomach for dessert!
We ordered a couple of desserts to share, including their signature Bbar Honeycomb Ice Cream, specially made in-house, and the peppermint crisp tart, their take on the popular South African ice box dessert.
The overall ambience was warm, welcoming, complemented by friendly and efficient service which always enhances any dining experience. With an impressive selection of wine and cocktails on offer, it is the ideal location for after-work drinks, a leisurely lunch or an intimate evening with your loved ones. They also have some amazing deals throughout the week, including half price cocktails between 5:00 – 7:00pm everyday – find out more on their website.
- My lunch experience at Bbar was complimentary – views and photos are my own.