African Volcano

Address:  6 Southwark Bridge Rd, London SE1 0EF
Bookings:  Walk in
Day:  Wednesday
Meal:  Dinner
Price: ££
Rating: 7/10

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 22.11.45I have explained the concept of Great Guns Social on this blog before. Different pop-up restaurants are allowed to take up residence in their kitchen for a brief period of time, normally a few months, before saddling up again and hitting the road, to be replaced by another chef with a stack of recipes and a dream.

Previously, we ate the tasting menu provided by Fodder, a pop-up specialising in foraged food. It was brilliant, surprising and delicious. They’ve vanished now, but the memory of their cooking remains vivid with us. Wherever you are Fodder, you have two fans here at Life at the end of a Fork!

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 22.10.39In their place is African Volcano, a pop-up specialising in the cuisine of Mozambique. It’s the creation of Grant Hawthorne and his wife, a pair of South Africans, who sell peri-peri sauces and marinades from their website, as well as at a stall in Maltby Market. They have a fairly large pair of foraged boots to fill, but at first taste, they’re having a good go of it.

Their peri-peri prawns with tomato and pilaf were a hit, rich and buttery, full-bodied and smoky. It was the kind of dish that you miss the very second you stop eating it. Spooning up the last morsel was like saying goodbye to a friend at the airport. I would happily have had a bowl five times its size and just sat around all evening with that plus a bucket full of chilled beers.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 22.11.37But all precious things come to an end, and before long the bowl was vanishing towards the kitchen, replaced with a plate of great, thick cuts of smoked salmon. My partner in culinary crime normally corners any fish dish (even if it’s nominally intended to be shared), and deflects any would-be scavengers with the tenacity of an African lion swatting hyena on Serengeti. This is fine in principal, but it does mean I have to take her word for it when reviewing marine dishes. This time was no different, so you’ll have to have it on her authority that the salmon was well smoked and full-bodied.

A plate of cured hams were marbled and glistening, almost purple. They were thin and lean, but full of flavour.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 22.11.54A southern fried chicken burger with spiced mayonnaise and red onions disappointed me. It was tall and narrow, difficult to eat, and strangely absent of the punch and vigour of the other dishes. It was certainly not volcanic. We found ourselves deconstructing it, eating the decent piece of fried chicken, and leaving the pretty pedestrian salad and bread on the plate. The ingredients of a burger should want to bind together. These had no affinity for each other.

Screen Shot 2018-07-18 at 22.11.30The best dish turned up last at the party. Their Cape Malva pudding was an instant classic, one of the nicest desserts we’ve had this year. It came hot and spongy, studded with dark chocolate, a scoop of cool vanilla ice cream melting on the side, a cluster of fresh raspberries and strawberries gathered round it. Everything on the plate played perfectly, the sharp tang of the fruit and the deep flavour of the chocolate, the warmth of the cake and the chill of the ice-cream.

The dish took me by surprise. We’d dithered about whether even to have a dessert. But it was an ambush worthy of the African savannah, and it put an exclamation point on the meal.

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Congratulations to African Volcano. And congratulations to Great Guns Social for picking pop-ups so well, especially ones so sprawling different in their offering. Here’s to further culinary eruptions on the Southwark Bridge Road.


The Three Horseshoes

Address: Dyehouse Rd, Godalming GU8 6QD
Bookings: no booking
Day: Saturday
Meal: lunch
Price: £
Rating: 6.5/10

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 19.44.56Eating in a provincial English pub can be a harrowing experience. Soggy chips. Gristle burgers. Battered cod where you eat through the batter only to discover there is no fish inside. Beer sodden carpets. Jingling quiz machines with Noel Edmonds winking at you on loop. All of these things will be familiar to anyone ever caught in a village pub at lunchtime.

But that only makes the experience of blundering across an excellent pub meal all the more special when it does happen. This weekend marked just such an occasion.

My partner in culinary crime and I had escaped London for the weekend and were driving through the quaint villages of southwest Surrey, when we came across the Three Horseshoes, a picture postcard pub in the leafy village of Thursley. A glorious beer garden at the back overlooked rolling, ploughed fields, trees studding the horizon and little cottages peaking cheerfully out from the foliage.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 19.44.15With the sky threatening to deluge us with rain, we decided to part with the idyllic view and make our way inside, to be seated in one of the pub’s many little nooks.

We started off with a whole baked camembert to share, which came with half a dozen warm, garlic-infused breadsticks covered in sea salt. Never has a wheel of cheese been devoured more quickly. Each of us grabbed a breadstick and began scooping away at the delightfully soft, warm, melting cheese, a perfect starter for a cold, wet day. With the gooey interior eaten, my partner in culinary crime proceeded to devour the cheese rind until there was no trace a camembert had ever even been there.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 19.44.37For my main course, I ordered up a pub classic: gammon with egg and chips. The gammon was slightly sweet, cut thin, whilst the eggs where soft, the yolk ready to burst. My partner in culinary crime ordered a roast duck on a bed of bubble and squeak, which although not Comptoir Gascon standard, was certainly more than edible. Everything can be washed down with local beer from the Hogs Back brewery.

So, we learnt a valuable lesson: good food doesn’t end at Woking, and the country is indeed studded with little culinary gems, pubs nestled in picturesque valleys or hidden behind small country vicarages, with neglected geniuses labouring away in the kitchens. But you have to be prepared to hunt them down… and you may have to sift through a lot of empty batter on the way!