Chef Patrick Williams is offering a menu of modern European dishes with South African influences at his first restaurant in Peckham, London. Katherine Price reports
Kudu, the new kid on the block in one of London’s latest up-and-coming neighbourhoods, is born of an impressive partnership. Patrick Williams was formerly sous chef at Robin Gill’s Paradise Garage in Bethnal Green, while partner Amy Corbin, who oversees front of house, is the daughter of Chris Corbin of Corbin & King.
Raised in Durban, Williams spent his early career in Cape Town, first at Forty Ate in the city centre and then Beluga, both under Yngve Muldal, who had worked with Gill at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. He then went on to work at La Colombe under Luke Dale- Roberts and Camphors under PJ Vadas. “PJ was a really big influence on what I do now, the way I think about food,” says Williams.
Following Vadas’ departure, Williams decided to try his luck overseas, and through Muldal was introduced to Gill. He joined ahead of the opening of the Manor in Clapham (now Sorella) in 2014 and was later promoted to sous chef at Paradise Garage. “That’s where I found myself in terms of food identity because I was doing dish development,” says Williams.
Early last year, in need of a new challenge, partner Amy mooted the idea of opening their own place, and by August they had secured a site, just before Paradise Garage closed its doors. The 48-cover restaurant opened in January.
Two of three chefs in his brigade came from Gill’s restaurants, and Williams hopes to achieve a similar kitchen environment: “They work their arse off every day, they really push themselves hard and they’re putting their hearts and souls into everything. They push me as well.”
He talks constantly of pushing forward, but Williams is committed to keeping Kudu an accessible restaurant, with no intentions of expanding into central London.
“We’re not trying to make ourselves the next best thing in London, but we’re definitely trying to stand out from the crowd by staying true to our roots. I think Peckham’s a good place for that,” he says. He acknowledges that Kudu is probably in the upper price bracket for the area, but defends it as necessary for the restaurant to source quality produce, adding that decisions such as using onglet instead of fillet or saddle are to keep prices appealing.
While the South African terms on the menu can appear daunting, Williams cites them as a great talking point. And considering they are doing 60-70 covers a night, they clearly aren’t putting off many people – they’ve even had to start booking out their bar seating. They keep the six-cover orangery in the back for walk-ins.
The restaurant’s signature dish is kudu bread (kudu is a species of antelope), cooked in a copper pot and served with melted lardon or seafood butter (no antelope involved).
Williams’ personal favourite is a chocolate and peppermint dessert inspired by South African Peppermint Crisp chocolate bars. The bars are filled with mint-flavoured straws; children bite off the ends and drink milk through them.
One of the best-selling dishes is the pig’s head tortellini. The head is blowtorched and braised overnight and a broth is made from the stock, with added pork bones roasted and smoked with hay, along with chestnut mushrooms and white soy. The dish is finished with crispy fried shallots and a dusting of cep powder.
Williams and Corbin’s next plan is to simplify the mise en place to emphasise the produce and expand the menu, which is currently one à la carte menu for dinner offering three or four snacks, small plates, medium plates and desserts, as well as brunch and lunch menus.
They also want to undertake more foraging. “The team has a really diverse amount of knowledge, and I’m still learning, which is good,” he says. “We want to keep it interesting – not just for the guests but for us.” They’ve already been using local Jack-by-the-hedge, a garlic-scented herb, in the savoury tarte tatins.
He’s positively buzzing with ideas for the restaurant: adding covers to the rear courtyard, establishing beehives and developing a relationship with a small producer farm directly. Another Kudu isn’t off the cards.
Ultimately, the goal is to keep pushing and developing. “It’s important to keep moving forward,” he says. “It doesn’t have to be a whole menu change, but small elements – the techniques or ingredients you use – keep it relevant and keep it evolving.”
From the menu
• Mussel potjie pot, seaweed gnocchi £9
• Onion and beer tarte tatin, goats’ curd £8
• Pig’s head tortellini, mushroom and hay broth, crispy onions £7.50
• Braai [barbecued] cauliflower, raisin purée, purple kale £9.50
• Braai lamb neck, smoked yogurt, lettuce, sprouting broccoli £11
• Roasted skate wing, charred calçots, samphire £12
• Scorched mackerel tartare, cucumber, nori £7.50
• Yogurt panna cotta, rhubarb, buckwheat, chervil £6
• Chocolate mousse, mint ice-cream, peppermint crisp £6
119 Queens Road, Peckham, London SE15 2EZ