From countries in Europe to right here in our own backyard, flavours from the African continent are inching their way onto mainstream menus, leaving food enthusiasts to ponder why it’s taken so long in the first place. Nevilles caught up with Runner Up of Time Out Loves London Awards 2018, Hammer & Tongs, to explore the African trend.
Explain the background behind Hammer and Tongs and the inspiration for the restaurant and its food?
We, South Africans, love cooking with wood ; it’s natural, the flavour from the smoke infused into the food is sublime, the heat from the glowing embers is better than any stove (we also call it a bush TV) and finally, it’s just so much fun. It’s a part of our lives, it’s what brings us together, it’s an any day, every day celebration of life.
How important is the presentation of your dishes?
Very important, especially for our restaurant, because everyone takes pictures of the food. We braai (bbq) all our food, so it is quite rustic.
How do you create your presentation style?
We sell a lot of platters as it gives that home style feel, which is what braai is all about. A Braai with your friends or family will have all the food from the fire, piled up in a container or tray. We keep it as simple as possible and let the quality speak for itself. For our crockery we use earthy and clean colours to match the food for our crockery.
Who is your main clientele?
South Africans probably make up 50% of our clientele and then we get a lot of British, American, Canadians and French. We’re a destination venue, so lots of groups visit us for parties.
What are your top tips when presenting African cuisine?
Keep it simple as the food has so much flavour. Make it easy to share as that is what African cuisine is about.
Why do you think African food has taken its time to reach the main stream high street?
People only recently got to grips with European food and so for many countries in Africa it is now their opportunity to showcase what they can do.
Why has it now become popular?
People are travelling more and further afield and being more adventurous in the countries they visit. With this comes more opportunity for African countries to showcase their food and culture. Africans in the UK probably realise that there are more opportunities to open African restaurants as the UK public are more receptive to new foods.
Where do you see the future of the African food trend on the high street going?
It will hopefully follow a similar trend as Indian and Chinese restaurants as it is all about sharing, similar to the Spanish style as well.
Interview with Etienne Pansegrauw, Owner