Date Visited: 4 September 2010
I really wanted to leave South African for last – as some sort of tribute to our time in London and to put an official stamp of closure on this entire enterprise. But when a great looking deal was delivered to my inbox from Groupon, how could we resist?
Shaka Zulu has been on everyone’s lips lately as the place to be and be seen. The brain child of one Roger Payne, found in the Stables Market in Camden, and costing a purported £5.5 million to refurbish, I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited.
As we descended the escalator from under a massive sculpture of the Zulu warrior, surrounded by walls garnished entirely in cowrie shells, into the bowels of the restaurant, I went into a state of shock. The shock only lifted after we exited, unceremoniously, through the fire escape stairwell.
We were marched through the bar area and down another escalator into the dining area, winding our way through the tightly packed tables to a table near the kitchen. I could barely keep my jaw from scraping the floor as I took in our surroundings. Every inch, floor to ceiling, is decorated in central African carvings and every available space, where another seat or table can’t be squeezed, is taken by a sculpture or an ostrich lamp. The wall above the open plan kitchen is decorated entirely in ginormous elephant friezes and the entire wall at the back is lined with enormous sculptures of Zulu warriors.
The voucher we had bought allowed us to enjoy the Taste of Africa menu, and our very friendly waitress explained that this was a four course meal including a glass of champagne. For starters we were served a small bowl of home-made beef biltong accompanied by a cumin dip (at which point, any true-blooded South African exclaims ‘What the – ?!), and something called shraak bread. I have never heard of this and the closest explanation I can find on the Net is shrak bread. Whatever it is, to me it was tasteless and stale. This was followed by a tiny helping of Cape Malay pickled fish. Pickled, it was, but fairly morish. The main course was a helping of seven hour spit roasted Dorper lamb served on a bed of carrot salad. Finally. we were served a Rooibos Brûlée. This really was my favourite dish on our little menu. I am not the biggest fan of desserts but I was practically licking the bowl clean, savouring the rich flavours and infused Rooibos. I wonder if I could replicate this at home?
Verdict: OTT and expensive. While it is not our agenda to be food or restaurant critics, the excessive theatrical nature of this restaurant beggars belief.
Watch a news clip about the restaurant here: