Set to open early in December, talented restaurateur Andy Lennox and founder of Koh Thai, one of the most successful Thai restaurant groups in the South West, will be bringing Southern African cuisine to the people of Ashley Cross, Poole with his exciting and must-visit new restaurant Zim Braai. Just in time for winter, the restaurant’s warming new menu will feature bold braai’d meats and fish along with enticing curries, stews, and salads that are just bursting with flavour.
Taking its brand name from a combination of “Zim” (what Zimbabweans call Zimbabwe) and “Braai” (the wood-fired cooking grill used in South Africa), although Southern African cuisine may not be on most people’s radar in the UK, Zim Braai aims to change that.
We spoke to Andy Lennox about this new venture and why he’s so excited to be bringing Southern African cuisine to foodies across Poole, and hopefully soon, the entirety of Dorset.
What inspired you to open a Southern African restaurant in Ashley Cross, Poole?
Looking for the next foodie frontier, I felt the UK restaurant sector was missing an accessible African concept. Diners are eager for, and highly receptive to, international cuisine based upon the success and popularity of various distinct flavours and ways of serving food that have emerged in recent years. I’ve been exploring Southern African food culture for a while and I decided that I wanted to deliver it as a new proposition – it’s bold, it has so many flavours and there is so much to choose from. A new foodie frontier.
What is it about Southern African cuisine that is so exciting to you?
What is not to like and where do I start? Slow-cooked braai’d meats and game, grilled fish, amazing stews and curries, loads of flavours – healthy, hearty “good for you” food. There is something for everyone – it offers a tantalising new foodie experience for the taste buds! It’s not just South Africa, but Southern Africa, and that encompasses a world of styles, recipes and ingredients.
What are some of your favourite dishes on the new menu?
The Zimbabwean Dovi – which is a hearty, peanut-based stew, is becoming a firm favourite, the grilled sea bass is going to be amazing and the Forrester Steak Tartare, named after the legendary winemaker, is truly awesome. Also, launching in winter means that the warming potjie stews and curries are going to go down a storm. Not to mention the serious meat we have on the menu.
You hope the restaurant will be a favourite amongst vegetarians and vegans. Can you go into more detail about this?
Yes – whilst the braai is traditional for big meats and game which is very much where we are focused and frankly it’s going to be a meat-eaters heaven, but, with the increasing take-up of what people call plant-based or flexitarian eating for a day or so each week or as a lifestyle choice, we are also going to incorporate some awesome grilled dishes like zucchini and aubergine as well as the Mozam Vegetable stew (amongst others). We can create dishes rich in vegetables, fruit, beans, herbs, spices and traditional sauces. Salads, rice, soups and breads – all can be meat/fish free.
What will the atmosphere be like and what are you aiming to achieve with the restaurant’s interior?
The decor features neutral, earthy tones which sing of Southern Africa and come alive through a daring and clever combination of subtle palette combinations and layers upon layers of design.
I love how well neutrals blend with flashes of colour throughout the African continent, the natural camouflage of beautiful animals and those stunning clear skies in wide open spaces. I wanted all of these elements to come to the forefront, knowing that they would encourage a great dining atmosphere. Just add friends and wine!
Southern African cuisine isn’t currently the most popular UK choice compared with Italian, Chinese, Indian or Thai food, so how do you plan to get people excited enough to try it?
Well, when we travel we try new things, be it a dining style or the local delicacy. Specialisms differ widely in one country, let alone throughout the southern half of a massive continent. There’s always a first time for discovering a new cuisine. Often it is a memorable experience which then goes on to become a firm favourite.
I create experiences, and this will be somewhere people will love to dine, relax and chill at brunch, at lunch or dinner.
Since the PR went live we’ve had so much incredible feedback – we’re not even open and everyone wants to know more and try it!
I must admit I was nervous when we launched our first Thai tapas offering 10 years ago, but here I am, at the start of another new adventure, after an amazing decade building Koh.
Ultimately its great food, great service, amazing atmosphere, all wrapped up in a great value offering. What is not to like about subtle amazing flavours, flame-grilled meats and fish, slow-cooked stews and curries and bold hearty salads!?
Zim Braai will be open for brunch, lunch and dinner and feature three very defined menus and atmospheres. Can you give us a little taster of what we have to look forward to and how the atmosphere will differ throughout the day?
The atmosphere will change throughout the day as will the decor of the restaurant with our subtle lighting designs and eclectic soundtrack. As the sun comes up we will offer a great brunch in a relaxed chilled setting, this evolves into an upbeat, vibrant lunch, and as the sun goes down the restaurant will come alive with colour and a warmth as the curated playlist guides you through your evening.
What do guests have to look forward to on the drinks menu? Any unique tipples or exciting creative cocktails?
We will be introducing our own offerings, the Oryx range – iconised by the animal which is featured in our branding – it will include our own beer and wines, and they are priced accessibly. We have a master mixologist designing our cocktail menu and an amazing portfolio of South African wines which will complement our menu perfectly as well as a signature “wine wall” showcasing a few unique bottles.
How long has opening a Southern African restaurant been a dream of yours and why is now the perfect time to open this restaurant?
I never stop thinking, tasting and exploring different cultures and concepts, and I love bringing concepts to life, introducing people to new adventures and experiences. This is one of many I’ve been contemplating – Zim has been growing in my mind since around 2014 amongst many others which I hope to bring to market in the future.
What are the most important lessons you have learned from your decade with Koh, one of the most successful Thai restaurant groups in the South West, that you are bringing with you to this new and innovative venture?
When I launched my first Koh I was 21, fresh out of Uni, and since then I have learnt everything and I am still learning.
As a restaurateur I feel I have potentially “come of age,” and by that I mean I have grown to understand that my business is much more than just creating good food, atmosphere, service and value. Developing sound business acumen and knowing how to expand is as important and that centres around timing.
I have a passion for training people and building a great team. I am a fair boss and, above all, my reputation is based on offering an exemplary customer experience, whilst being rounded as both an employer and as a businessman and that will be translated into this new brand.
To keep up to date with all the goings-on at Zim Braai, be sure to visit their website and follow them on their Facebook page. You can even make a booking by emailing Zim Braai at [email protected]@zim-braai.co.uk.