Barbe-queues as UJIA courts South Africans

Big Braai guests tucking in

Big Braai guests tucking in

A traditional South African barbecue in the grounds of a Totteridge mansion provided a taste of home for ex-pats on Sunday.

Organised by UJIA as part of its outreach work among overseas communities in London, the Big Braai attracted around 260 hungry patrons, among them Barbra and Brian Davis, who came to England 16 years ago and now live in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

"It is perfect," said an impressed Mrs Davis. "Everything has been done so well, from the food to the company. The only thing different is the weather."

Her husband said they had no regrets about making their life in Britain. "We are very happy to be here. Our kids have had an amazing education in the UK. And we travel back and forth often because we run our own safari range. We've got lots of South African friends here in London, so it is a great idea from UJIA to get us all together."

I've known some of the people here since I was four

Guests were treated to traditional dishes such as boerewors (sausage), pap and smoor (a traditional porridge/polenta) and peri peri chicken in a menu devised by JW3 chef Josh Katz.

Brothers Jonathan and Daniel Levine confessed they had "only come for the boerewors" and were "devastated" to find supplies had run out.

"I wanted to cry when there was none left," Jonathan said. "That is how important food is in our culture."

His brother added that they were UK born but their parents were from South Africa.

"We make our own biltong [cured meat] at home so I guess we do feel quite South African, even though we have only been there once."

Their parents, Glenda and Charles, came to London in 1988 and Mrs Levine said the Big Braai fare passed muster. "In Britain there is not much of a chance to get together like this, maybe because the culture here is very busy. But this is fantastic. I know quite a few people here. Some of them I have known since I was four."

Debbie and Bryan Kobrin came to the UK 40 years ago "after a friend of ours was shot dead. We decided that for the children's sake there was not much of a future in South Africa," Mrs Kobrin explained.

"This braai is exactly how it would have happened on a Sunday afternoon back home. You wouldn't know who was coming, much like this. It is much more casual there."

Younger guests were entertained with funfair stalls manned by Habonim-Dror volunteers, bouncy castles and a swimming pool.

UJIA's Natie Shevel outlined its work in the Galil and also talked about his own South African background.

"It's really important to reach out to the South African community and engage you in the work we do," he said. "It's our first braai but I hope there are many more and that we get to see you at our annual dinner."

Last updated: 2:11pm, July 7 2014