Sail away with lazy Spanish days on Jan Smuts Avenue

Sail away with lazy Spanish days on Jan Smuts Avenue
Kevin Collins and Glenda Lederle, who has Glenda’s, and a happy-image joint sardine can collection. (Photo: Supplied)

We in Jozi have longed for an outside place where we can relax, have a succession of remarkable snacks, drink something bright and be with likeminded people. Some place slightly clever. That’s Bocodillo, right there.

Artist and longtime cook, Kevin Collins, has been hankering for the same sort of place and food as thousands of us here in Jozi: an al fresco space for lingering with good food and drink and plenty of great conversation. He was simply in the best position to supply it. It’s the most engaging pop-up and I hope it’s here forever.

For the longest time I want to plonk down in a patio chair here and talk to the interesting owner-chef at his barrow-like stand, confident that little plates of wonder will keep coming to my table, mouthfuls of fabulous tastes. Where I can chat with friends about things other than work and disasters, where we plan sunny holidays while relishing foretastes of them. A place where everything seems better and easier, where a day melts more slowly into evening. 

It is the big wish that really came true. The end of a day at the end of the week now has the relaxing pace and place of flavours. Kevin simply called it Bocodillo, Spanish for a sandwich or snack. Each snack is really a tapas type item, not necessarily every one Spanish but that sort of thing. Each one fits on a nice Iberian glass saucer or a little personally painted fish plate and can easily sit like a protective cap on your sundowner glass, as the tapas was once intended to do. 

A very small fish-painted plate by Kevin Collins, this holding a taste of his pickled beetroot. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

“While everyone was baking banana bread, I was baking plates during Covid. I bought a kiln,” says Kevin, flicking his hair back from his eyes. The fish-painted plates are joyful medium, small and very small collectable things. He does sell them when he has enough. Here’s a very small one holding a sample of some spicy beetroot he’s just pickled, for tasting. It’s going to go with his Polana pickle, which is the carroty one, and goes onto a tapas plate with giant juicy black and green olives. 

There cannot be many Jozi food lovers who have not been to Glenda’s. Chefs like to eat their breakfasts there and I was introduced to the place by Marthinus Ferreira when he had DW11-13 down the road. He now has Jordan Restaurant in the Stellenbosch area. A lot of beautiful items emanate from Glenda’s kitchen all day long but it’s primarily known for exquisite breakfasts, brunches and coffees with choux pastries and other excellent patisserie. It looks delightfully lavish and floral and is run by Glenda Lederle.

Kevin has known Glenda for 20 years from the days when she started the original Patisserie in Illovo. “Having an art eye, I could pipe the Happy Birthdays nicely onto a cake, not just Happy Birt.” After her subsequent years at Kurland near Plett and then food travelling the US and Europe for years, she opened Glenda’s near Hyde Park and he has also helped her here over time. 

Kevin just loves food, what it means and how people enjoy it. Otherwise, he loves art and he makes that too. “Long ago” he worked for an SA food heroine of mine, Topsy Venter, also Freda Appelbaum at Le Canard in Jozi (see The rediscovery of a French food legend in Jozi) and, when the Illovo Patisserie recently became available again, Glenda and Kevin went into business together there. 

The public who’ve missed Glenda Lederle’s Patisserie expertise are flocking back. The old hatbox pastel stripes and polka dots are gone and it looks fresh and bold, no doubt thanks to Kevin. I found him there this morning while I was eyeing marzipan-iced petits fours, though I’m probably seeing him again at the Bocodillo this evening. We chatted about people who’ve made the big differences to Jozi’s and South Africa’s ways with food over time. It could well make another story.

Glenda’s is not a night place by association, though it is open in the evenings. Right outside, on the big courtyard pavement, is where Bocodillo is now, open late afternoons till eight in the evenings on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The Glenda’s staff wait tables at the busier, al fresco evenings at Bocodillo. The staff seem to be enjoying the novelty and have more of an opportunity to work, says Louis Masiza.

From four o’clock onwards he and the other staff members were here with Kevin a week ago when I first experienced Bocodillo. I return this evening a little later by the clock, to have some more of the fun, the deliciously sunny snacks and to make sure I wasn’t dreaming the first time round.

A good test of my not dreaming is that the weather today is doing a funny Jozi thing. Big gusts blow and loosen any remaining old leaves among the fully green branches of trees on the patio or courtyard. It’s the sort of wind that results in flurries of early summer almost-rain. The breezes drop and pick up, bouncing the hanging fish around, flipping the edges of the sun umbrellas and blowing the hair back into Kevin’s eyes.

Last time here, a friend and I drank sangria in the sun and tasted quite a few of the bocodillos but I’d like more. We chortled all the way home while it was still light, congratulating ourselves on living in Jozi with this great place so easy to enjoy. A whole bunch of nice people had been here, friends of writers Janine Walker and Charmain Naidoo, who are often PR people but that afternoon were not. Today I have a dry rose in consideration of my later hour.

Another friend is also here to experience the place today, to see what Jozi people are talking about. He says “This is like a Wes Anderson set.” I look at it afresh. In the early breezy evening it seems to glow, the colours intensifying like old instamatic prints.

Like a Wes Anderson movie set. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

There’s a cheesy star at Kevin’s “barrow” which only seems like one. The light seeps through his jars of pickles, all made by him except for the carrot one he first tasted at the Polana in Maputo and which he includes in his panoply of pickles, with a car park behind. 

The little dishes come with the pickles, like his slow-roasted spare rib empanadas that come with his bread and butter pickle or his Calamari a la Plancha, the crispy spicy-hot, pan-seared squid that comes with my favourite, his lemon pickle. 

Slow-roasted-spare-rib empanada with the bread and butter pickle. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

“I’ve probably got too many dishes on the menu but I don’t want to take any of them off.”

Kevin reckons he can cope with the numbers. He has 12 meat and fish sorts of tapas and eight vegetable ones, though a delicious Eggs Diablo has snuck in there on its little salad, as well as the cold Spanish omelette with hot tomato sauce and white anchovies. 

Instead of taking any plates off, he’s added two sweet things as well. “These things aren’t meant to be eaten in courses, though some people try that, not even in any order. But people also kept asking for something sweet.” So now there’s an appropriately intense Blood Orange Sorbet and a little Crema Catalana.

He can’t resist adding a few little tastes like grilled watermelon for fun and gratis. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

In addition to what’s already there, Kevin can’t resist adding a few items for fun and gratis. He wanders over to tables with some grilled watermelon from his teeny-tiny grill and, from his jar of feta in olive oil, some of that too. He says he doesn’t like to waste the lovely fruit from Glenda’s. 

There are some things that need to be done in the kitchen here, like the fishcakes and Patatas Bravas, Spanish omelette and so on but, as Kevin says, “I really feel it adds something to the taste to do the chorizo (which goes with red onions, chickpeas and a smoky paprika dip-dollop on a small farinata or pancake made with chickpea flour) and the monkfish skewers and even the Espetos or skewers of sardines. Don’t you think so?”

I also think the “pan de cristal” bread that he toasts tastes so much nicer from his grill too. It’s a Catalan style sourdough ciabatta, often called glass bread, always holey and delicious in its artisanal glory. 

Pan con Tomate, simple and fresh as it is, epitomises this casually fun place and time. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

One of the world’s edibles I love unreservedly, a really simple but magic-tasting thing generally, is Pan Con Tomate. Here it’s on the lovely toasted bread, the tomato chopped onto it with olive oil and herbs and the garlic first scraped over the toast, quite a smart version of the Pa amb Tomàquet of Cataluña that is the one I first knew and which is just a halved tomato smeared over the garlic-scraped toast with a dribble of olive oil. This goes so well with our new, casually fun place and time that I can’t stop smiling.

Last time, Kevin told me he uses all local ingredients to make his little tastes or tapas, except for the imported paprika he likes to use, the Portuguese sardines for grilling “for the definitely sweeter taste they have” and we added the Polana pickle from Mozambique. His grilled sardines are sizable and, either with lemon or chilli, served on the wonderful toast. The Manchego cheese that goes with his roasted and lemony Patatas Bravas is, surprisingly, made somewhere locally and, it seems, secretly. Kevin’s not divulging everything.

The Tuna Crudo is a sum of tasty parts that make up an indescribably delicious whole. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

His paprika is liberally dusted over a lot of little dishes but especially over the Pulpo La Gallega, the chicken of Galicia, which is octopus, marinated here, served cold with lemon and pepper and that smoky red spice. It’s also intrinsic to his monkfish skewers, which turn out, despite the tomato bread, to be one of my two favourite Bocodillo dishes, both fish as it happens and as it befits the Kevin Collins art plates.

My other favourite Bocodillo dish has turned out to be Tuna Crudo, thin tuna slices, cured and served with their citrus, sea salt, smoked chilli and caper dressing. On the special, grilled bread. It’s a sum of tasty parts that make up an indescribably delicious whole.

The grilled and marinated monkfish dusted with paprika, to look forward to. (Photo: Marie-Lais Emond)

Thankfully there are more Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays coming up. So I have this exciting excuse to recover again at the end of any of those days with the sunniest of friends, this conversation inspiring food and a holidayish long drink. I’ll settle down before Kevin’s “barrow” at one of his painted tables with, among other snacks, the little grilled and marinated monkfish dish that looks ready to sail away with me down Jozi’s Jan Smuts Avenue. DM/TGIFood

Bocodillo: Hyde Square Shopping Centre at Glenda’s | 285 Jan Smuts Ave | 011 268 6369. Open until December 17 – from Wednesday to Saturday – from 4pm to 8pm.

The writer supports Nosh Food Rescue, an NGO that helps Jozi feeding schemes with food ‘rescued’ from the food chain. Please support them here.


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