Given the profusion of cafe-deli outfits on this strip of Great Western Road, you can see why Veldt feels the need to differentiate itself, but there's quite a selling job to be done on South African cuisine. Somehow, that synthesis of starchy African ingredients and colonial Dutch cooking isn't enticing. Perhaps this is my ignorance showing. The only South African dish I know is bobotie, the national favourite - a legacy of Dutch colonialists who brought Indonesian culinary influences to the continent - but it always tastes to me like a moussaka, or a keema curry, gone terribly wrong, every bit as much of a colonial catastrophe as coronation chicken. Why did colonialists feel the need to heap chutney on everything?
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Certainly, there's a lot of chutney on the shelves at Veldt, notably that made by a certain Mrs Ball, or her descendents. This brand seems to be a big deal down in the republic, and in the South African diaspora. "For South Africans abroad, there's nothing quite like the taste of the mother country to bring on a wave of homesickness. Ouma rusks, Chappies bubble gum, biltong and boerewors are all sold in speciality shops across the world for the South African expat community. And probably the most iconic taste of all is that of Mrs HS Ball's Chutney" says the latter's website.
Other imported South African foods on sale at Veldt don't do a whole fat lot to budge my lingering prejudice that South Africa isn't at the cutting edge of food appreciation. You can buy packs of a Simba brand chutney-flavoured potato chip that "roarrrs with flavour", and with a paragraph long ingredients listing that includes MSG, irradiated spices, saccharin, aspartame, artificial flavour enhancers and colourings, I bet it does, but you can take nostalgia too far.
In environmental terms, Veldt must be one of the roughest and readiest delis in business. When we arrived, the windows were covered in a filmy steam, which creates a mysterious air, a bit like the fog from a South African braai, or barbecue. Interior design is basic: painted concrete floor, hessian sacking, upended crates for shelving. Still, the eating area manages to be quite comfortable in a stripped-down, grain store sort of way. The presence of an ugly, refrigerated display unit is a blot on the landscape, but there has been an attempt to humanise it by placing cake stands on top of it. You walk through the utilitarian kitchen to the lavatory, which may still be awaiting a visit from the plasterer, joiner and painter. This is a deli on a shoestring.
The menu is a wacky compilation of South African and Scottish tea shop. "Scotch broth" was served, but not as any Scot would recognise it. A stick-to-the-ribs stew of pulses (possibly split peas) and grain (possibly pearl barley), spiked assertively with curry spices. It came with excellent bread supplied by Tapa, Glasgow's hardworking, high standard, artisan bakehouse. "Meaty bunny chow" - I don't get the names here - was a lively-spiced curry of tender lamb, served in a scooped-out bap, with toasted coconut and almonds, and a slightly medicinal tomato sambal on the side. If you ask me, chapati or rice would have been better, but then that's not the point of Veldt.
Boerewors sausage, made with Scotch beef, was surprisingly good: meaty, substantial and deftly spiced. It looked a bit crude, just stuck in a submarine roll thick with the inevitable chutney. Roosterbrood, essentially a cheese toastie, was let down by its cheese - a bland coloured cheddar - and once again, there was no escaping sugar in the form of chutney.
The cakes were a mixed bag. Thumbs up for a Tunisian orange cake, its innards so soaked in citrus syrup that they glowed like amber; thumbs down for a Victoria sandwich sponge with a buttercream filling that left a greasy residue on the roof of the mouth.
I'd look on Veldt as a curious anthropological experience, a weird synthesis of cultures. It's another one-off outfit, not without its very own appeal, that adds to the West End's cosmopolitan cluster.