Fire, smoke and ash. Powerful flavours. Vibrant colours. Animated music. Energy and excitement. Mpumalanga Fire. Boom chakalaka. Africola is unlike anything South Australia has ever seen. It is quirky, eclectic and buzzing with a unique vibe.
Owners, Duncan Welgemoed and James Brown, have brought the magic and the amazing food of South Africa to South Australia with the opening of Africola. As the designer, James has successfully created a contemporary version of a “shebeen” – an African inspired bar and eating house that is bold, colourful, vibrant and unique.
Duncan is the Executive Chef, and was born and raised in South Africa, mostly around Johannesburg and Mpumalanga as the son of a chef. Moving to the UK at the age of 17, Duncan spent his formative years at The Goose in Britwell, Salome; Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons as well as working with Heston Blumenthal at The Fat Duck. It was in these kitchens that he gained the discipline and technical knowledge he is renowned for today.
Duncan was also the Executive Chef at Bistro Dom in Adelaide, but Africola is the first venue he has owned and operated. He decided it was time to “go home” and cook South African food. And so, inspired by his South African heritage and the melting pot of food in his native land, Africola was opened as an ode to his late father’s legacy as a chef.
When it came to naming the venue, the historic boxing fight known as the “Rumble in the Jungle” in 1974, was the inspiration. The German owned Afri-Cola, a popular drink in middle and southern Africa, was a key sponsor for the fight and was a perfect fit for Duncan’s new venture.
Duncan is at home with fire, flame and ash. You may spot a bone saw or a machete or witness meat being carved with an axe. Whether he is preparing slow roasted cow’s head, boom chakalaka – a fiery vegetable relish – or the “Let Us Feed You” kitchen menu, all of the dishes are skillfully prepared and robust in flavour. Mpumalanga fire, a sauce close to Duncan’s heart, is made with his mother’s secret recipe that only he knows, and is the lifeblood of the restaurant.
Duncan describes himself as “militantly seasonal” and produce is always local, with some foraged in the Adelaide Hills, from the Barossa Valley and Coorong. Having grown up slaughtering the meat he ate, Duncan is very particular about the animals he uses. Treating local seasonal produce with inherent respect and understanding from paddock to plate sets Africola apart.
The drinks list includes South African and artisan South Australian wines, as well as Africola’s own draft beer, Mafuta, and signature cocktails. Guests can sip drinks perched on bar stools seated at the showpiece bar, or settle in dining booths and watch the theatre of the restaurant unfold.
Embracing the opportunity to do something no one else has done, Africola is an inspired addition to the Adelaide dining scene.