Vivat Bacchus: A Culinary Journey to South Africa Without Leaving Central London

South Africa is a country renowned for being an idyllic holiday destination. South African beauty brands, stunning coastlines, breathtaking canyons, and, of course, iconic wildlife—what more could one want in an exotic escape from the UK? Plus, not only is it one of the finest safari destinations the world has to offer, but it is also home to its very own vibrant, beautiful cuisine. With regional, speciality meats grilled to perfection on a braai- a South African menu is one quite like no other. However, a hefty 11 hour-or-so plane journey causes most of us to keep the visit for an extra special occasion. But what if a honeymoon isn’t on the cards and your holiday must prioritise accessibility over adventure? Fear not. Vivat Bacchus has brought the rustic cuisine of this beautiful country to not one, but two central London locations for us to revel in all year round. 

With one restaurant standing proudly in the heart of Farringdon and the other just a stone’s throw from London Bridge, both venues of Vivat Bacchus are in convenient, central locations. We hopped on the Circle line to Farringdon and with one foot in the door, we knew we were in for a treat.

With a slightly industrial finish of a wine factory, the interior boasts a sultry yet magical ambience. As you’re brought to your table, take in the calming orange-hued lighting, the wooden panelling and the detailed paintings of beautiful South African mountainscapes. The windows that look out onto passing double decker busses and clusters of skyscrapers are surrounded by shelves of grand books and vintage bottles of red- a charming contrast between London’s hustle and bustle and the South African allure.

Meat is the centrepiece of a South African meal and the seasonal menu of Vivat Bacchus serves up the rare breed kind, grilled to absolute perfection. We started off with the Wagyu Carpaccio. Whilst initially hesitant to try raw meat, our lovely waitress assured us that it was a must. Just one bite of the fine beef against the truffle aioli and shaved Parmesan was all it took to instantly convert us to carpaccio devotees.

A rare dish to come across in London, we felt obliged to give the crocodile goujons a go next. Coated in golden breadcrumbs, the meat was as juicy and as succulent as chicken, with a light, fluffy texture of white fish.

Already planning for our next fix, we turned to Google on the way home to search for “crocodile meat butchers in London”. With few results to show, we concluded we have no choice but to make a return booking at Vivat Bacchus. 

For our main course, we were eager to try Braai. A method of cooking deep-rooted in South African culture, Braai involves grilling over an open flame and results in tender meats bursting with unmatched flavour. The herb-crusted lamb will melt in your mouth, while the succulent sirloin could be cut with a butter knife.

Needless to say, the triple-cooked chips are a wonderful accompaniment, but the refreshing rocket and Parmesan salad side should certainly not be overlooked.

Our meal was perfectly paired with a bottle of deep pinotage from the region of Paarl, hand-picked from the restaurant’s walk-in wine cellar- a cellar that is also home to London’s largest selection of South African wines.

Finally, we ended the night with dessert and a delectable board of cheese served with chutney, fresh and dried fruits, and crackers. With the restaurant’s very own dedicated walk-in cheese room, we had an inkling that the selection of cheeses would be second to none. In fact, you can have your very own cheese room experience, with the expert staff on hand to tell you all about the wide range, from sharp Gorgonzola to earthy Pitchfork.

It may be some time until you can embark on a trip of a lifetime to South Africa. However, thanks to Vivat Bacchus, you can experience the unrivalled cuisine as soon as this evening (depending on availability, of course).

Whether you opt for the Farringdon or the London Bridge restaurant, sit back, relax, and indulge in exotic starters, tender meats, and delicious wine. Consider it a mini-retreat from a damp London spring.

Visit their website to book a table, see their menu or buy South African wine online.

Josie Wilkins

Josie is a Journalism graduate from Galway, Ireland. In her free time, she writes for her blog, Naturally Fuelled (@josiewilkins on instagram). When she isn't writing, she enjoys playing the one song she knows on the piano, 'I Giorni', saving the postman from her aggressive Shorkie, and defending brussels sprouts as an all-year-round snack!