Before you go to a restaurant, what do you want — or need — to know most? In our series, The Rundown, we’re sharing all the essentials about newly opened (as well as some of your favourite) restaurants.
This time, we’re looking at the brand-new Kudu Grill, the third site from Kudu Collective founder Amy Corbin and her partner and co-founder Patrick Williams. Tucked away in a peaceful corner of southeast London, minutes from Peckham and Nunhead stations, this new braii restaurant has all the makings of a beloved neighbourhood locale that’s able to hang with the best of central London. Here’s everything you need to know.
It’s the fourth site from the founders of the nearby Kudu, who have nurtured a small empire of South African-influenced restaurants in southeast London.
The daughter of a restaurant hall of famer, Corbin had initially considered something on a more modest scale – a café or bakery, perhaps – if she was ever to step into the world of hospitality. A chance meeting with now-partner and co-founder Patrick Williams changed that trajectory – and, as the story goes, a family friend slipped Corbin’s number into Williams’ pocket after a meal at the restaurant where the latter worked as a junior sous chef.
Riffing off Williams’ upbringing in Kwazulu-Natal and culinary pedigree earned via experience at Robin Gill’s restaurants The Manor and Paradise Garage, the original Kudu was a sleeper hit, garnering critical acclaim. Even better, the restaurant found itself with a full reservations book and a fiercely loyal clientele. The restaurant earned a Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide in 2018 (which it has retained) and the pair had planned the next phase of their life and career as the coronavirus pandemic hit.
Since then, Corbin and Williams have opened Smokey Kudu, a slick cocktail bar beneath the arches by Queens Road station, as well as Curious Kudu, a private dining space for low-key, glamorous celebrations that doubles as a gallery space during the day. As with its predecessors, Kudu Grill focuses the South African ingredients and dishes of Williams’ background through the prism of his time cooking in contemporary European kitchens, with a particular focus on South African style braii cooking on open fire.
The braii menu expands on Kudu’s repertoire of small plates and is perfect for celebrations.
With respect to the original Kudu, Corbin had always wanted a more convivial experience suited for groups, and found an opportunity as the lease on a former neighbourhood restaurant in Nunhead came up. “We thought this would be the perfect location because it used to be a pub and suited the grill house style that we were looking for,” she smiles. “So, our lockdown was actually very busy because we had to do lots of planning and menu writing.”
“Cooking on the braai is a huge part of South African culture and we wanted something that was more laidback and sharing-focussed than Kudu,” she says.
While the small plates style of the original Kudu appears in a fleet of snacks and sharing plates – the spiced biltong and flatbread with lardo and wild garlic are excellent – the restaurant’s raison d’être lies in its showstopping centrepieces, lifted straight from the flames of the braii. Williams has particularly been excited at the prospect of cooking over Namibian and South African hard wood, secured via a specialist wood supplier.
South Africa’s famously meat-centric dining culture is represented in a hulking dry-aged T-bone steak, accompanied with beer-pickled onions and a sweet treacle bordelaise. Monkey gland sauce – a sweet and tangy sauce ubiquitous in South Africa’s casual dining culture – accompanies a grilled pork chop of some heft.
Meanwhile, a whole black bream, its skin crisped and charred from the grill, arrives with flaky roti slicked with zhoug butter – perfect for close quarters eating, and Corbin’s personal favourite: “It’s a really interactive dish,” she says. “And it’s perfect for sharing with a few people – I love the fact that you tear up the roti to eat it with the delicate fish.”
Williams is quick to shout out the restaurant’s desserts: “For me, it’s the MelkTert choux bun, because it’s based on a very classic South African dessert that my mum would make every weekend,” he says.
We should mention that the dining room is a bit special.
Before making a life in London’s restaurant industry, Corbin had originally studied interiors – not a coincidence when one considers the aesthetics of each of the pair’s restaurants.
She worked with interior architects and hospitality specialists A-NRD (who also designed Kudu and Smokey Kudu) to transform the former Trumans pub into a living, breathing space with no shortage of cosy corners.
“I wanted the room to feel quite sexy, ambience-wise,” Corbin says, “with low lighting and a warm, cosy feel. The building is an old pub, and I didn’t want to lose that feeling but wanted it to be a bit more glamorous and polished.”
The original brickwork and flooring from the pub has been retained, while intimate velvet banquette seating has been installed, along with marble-topped tables, vintage lighting, and luxurious upholstery to create an opulent, occasion-worthy feel.
While the restaurant is a welcome return for founder Amy Corbin, it’s also another step in reaffirming southeast London’s dining credentials.
Between the openings of the original Kudu and Kudu Grill, Corbin and Williams have also found the time and energy to raise a family of two while expanding their mini-restaurant empire in Peckham.
“We’ve always loved Peckham because it’s such a melting pot of cultures and we’re lucky to have regulars who come to the restaurant every week,” she says, reaffirming that the neighbourhood “definitely feels more like home”, also giving credit to new arrivals like Peckham Cellars, Pedlar and Levan.
These restaurants are also part of the neighbourhood’s rich, multifaceted dining heritage that includes everything from Kurdish eateries and a proud tradition of West African barbecue to vegan Rastafarian cafes.
Are there any plans to celebrate that heritage when the team at Kudu Grill settles in and things begin to feel ‘normal’ again? “We’re very passionate about the area and it would be lovely to celebrate that in some way further down the line,” she says. “We’ve only just opened Kudu Grill so that’s what we’re focussing on at the moment – but who knows what will happen in the future.”
- If You Build It, They Will Come – How Kudu’s Amy Corbin is Building a Culinary Legacy in Peckham
- Everything You Need To Know About Café Cecilia, Max Rocha’s New Restaurant
- London’s Best Restaurants and Bars For a Date
- The Resy Guide to The Best Restaurants in Soho
- Resy’s Guide to The Best Restaurants in Shoreditch