I talk regularly in my posts here about the foods I miss from South Africa – Anchovette, biltong, Melrose cheese spread, Nice & Spicy spice packs – the list is long. And I must say I always feel for South African expats who live in countries where SA products simply aren’t available. I once sent some Choc-Kits to a blogger in Sweden who almost wept with joy! It really made me feel grateful for the fact that I live in London where the huge SA expat community means that there are very few South African specialities that you cannot get hold of without having to resort to smuggling it in with your underwear at the bottom of the suitcase.
Although there are dozens of South African shops in and around London, I tend to go most regularly to two of them. That’s not to say there aren’t other great places to get your taste of home: St Marcus in Roehampton is on the wrong side of town for me to get to regularly, but I have been there with friends and was deeply impressed with the size of the store and the variety of different types of boerewors and biltong on offer. The Cruga shop in Milton Keynes carries a full range of the delicious Cruga biltong and is the only place I have seen snoek in this country. My delightful South African hardressers in Canada Water (Doyer & Doyer) stock a small range, so you can get a cut, colour and a packet of NikNaks should the mood take you. And I was amazed on a trip to Jersey to see a guy barrelling along the island lanes in van advertising biltong – apparently he supplies home-made biltong to homesick Saffer expats and curious locals.
But these are places I seldom get to. The two places I usually go to get my fix are:
African Enterprises (under the Charing Cross railway arches off Villiers Street)
This is the shop I visit most frequently. It’s easy to get to from a number of Tube lines and is big enough to stock a large range of stuff. Started in 1995 to cater to the growing number of South Africans in London following our readmission to the Commonwealth, it has gone from strength to strength and now even acts as a wholesaler to smaller outlets. I love them because they always have a good range of Cruga biltong and droewors, because they stock the Best Boerewors in London (made by Web Butchers in Southfields) and because they have a good selection of South African wines, beers and ciders. Apart from the edibles, you can also stock up on SA magazines like Huisgenoot/YOU (because you know you want to, even if you won’t admit it!), African curios, SA rugby jerseys/scarves and the like, and a range of South African books. For the homseick braaimeister, there is also a range of Cadac skottelbraai products and authentic 3-legged potjiekos pots. It’s also my first port of call for a range of South African sweets and the jar of Wilson’s Toffees by the till makes me feel like a little kid again.
Apart from what you’ll find on the shelves, I gather that they also have a flower delivery service to all major centres in South Africa (perfect for when you’ve forgotten Mom’s birthday!) and in the summer they will cater a lamb spit braai for your friends, at the very reasonable cost of £10 per head. And best of all, they are prepared to consider individual requests for a particular product that you are craving – so do speak to the (ever-friendly) staff.
Tel. 020 7839 6415
The Savanna (in The Vaults at London Bridge station)
This is just one of four branches of this store throughout London (the other three are in Raynes Park, Wimbledon and Southfields). In a stroke of marketing genius they opened a small store in London Bridge about a year or so ago – at least, that’s when I first noticed it. It meant that people like me who live east of Tower Bridge and don’t really shop in the SW-London Saffer enclaves can conveniently grab a favourite treat from home on the way through, or pick up a bottle of SA wine en route when visiting South African friends in the southwest.
Although the premises are tiny, the shop is jam-packed with your favourites, from Romany Creams to Ina Paarman spices to tins of Koo jams to Simba chips. The Savanna also has an in-house butcher to supply all their branches with meat products such as fresh biltong (including peri peri flavour), droewors, boerewors – and vacuum-packed chicken flatties for the braai! (For those who are wondering, these are spatchcocked chickens, marinated and ready for the coals.) I believe in the larger stores you can also get kudu and springbok meat – ideal for making my springbok fillet on the braai. They also seem to have some captive South African bakers hidden somewhere as you can buy a range of Saffershire (love it!) homemade rusks, milk tart and… cooksisters. And last week while I was cleaning them out of their supply of Tennis biscuits, Caramel Treat and Peppermint Crisp (to make the famous fridge tart!), I also noticed that they have a few bottles of Klein Constantia’s Vin de Constance! Impressive, and ideal as a special treat for your English wine fundi friends.
London Bridge Station
Tel. 020 7357 9314
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