I'm lucky enough to sometimes get invited to review restaurants for this blog (and Try This For - another site I write for). I only ever accept these invites if it's somewhere I want to go anyway, and I turn down invites to places that I don't think I'll like or that aren't of interest to me. After all, this blog is about recommending places for you to try. However, I will occasionally accept an invite to somewhere I've never heard of, because it looks like it will be interesting and something completely different, like Shaka Zulu in Camden, where I headed a couple of weeks ago with Hugo.
Shaka Zulu is located underneath Camden Market and I had no idea it was even there until we went. You take the escalator down to the restaurant, where a huge, sprawling space (27,000 sq feet!!) reveals itself. Every wall of the 2 floor space is covered in hand carved wooden panels, and there are life size animal and warrior statues everywhere you look. The restaurant opened nearly 5 years ago, and it took 3 years to carve all the panels and make all the interior decorations, and another 2 years to install them all!
We went on a Tuesday, and the restaurant wasn't that full, but still had a buzz about it. We were seated next to a balcony that looked over the huge elephant heads above, and down onto the lower ground floor. Shaka Zulu is London's largest South African restaurant and the food they serve centres around barbecued and grilled wild game meats and fish/seafood - on the menu we spotted smoked chilli crocodile, snoek (a South African oily fish) pate, ostrich, zebra and all sorts.
Having tried quite a lot of wild game meat previously (I was brought up near a wild boar farm that also imported wild meats) we actually decided not to go too crazy with our ordering. For starters I chose the half lobster, which was perfectly cooked, and tasted lovely with the homemade mayonnaise it was served with. A fresh, clean start to the meal.
Hugo had the wild boar and ostrich terrine which was rich and gamey, with the ostrich fillet pressed into the centre of the terrine, which was made from slow cooked boar knuckle. The papaya salsa served on the side was the perfect accompaniment to the dish, adding a refreshing zing to his starter. Starters range from £6.50-18.50.
For mains we both chose grilled game meat. I had the springbok loin, served with straw fries and tomatoes. It was perfectly cooked, and really tender, and tasted like a slightly less intense version of venison - excellent for the warmer summer months.
And because Hugo loves wild boar so much he had it for mains as well as his starter, opting for the chemoula wild boar tenderloin. Again, perfectly cooked and tender, with a strong gamey taste. Sides are extra at Shaka Zulu and we shared some chips and green beans. Main courses are quite pricey here (mine was £28 and Hugo's £26) but you are paying for the food and the experience.
Getting full but not really wanting to leave this other world of statues and carved walls that we'd entered, we stayed for some pudding/another drink. I had pudding - a wonderfully creamy passion fruit crème brulee and shortbread....
While Hugo had the most incredible cocktail - the Rum Blazer. The barman came to make it at our table, and arrived with 2 glasses, one with dark spiced rum and overproof rum, and one with Grand Marnier liqueur, blackberries, raspberries and an orange twist, each being warmed over another glass full of hot water. He mixed them, set them alight, chucked a bit of cinnamon into the flames to make them spark, and served up a very strong cocktail!! Hugo had to wait a little for the drink to cool down before he drank it, but when he did, he said it was delicious.
Shaka Zulu is such a fun restaurant. Yes, the food it quite expensive, and yes, they have escalators in the middle of the restaurant which gives it a Las Vegas feel, but if you want an exciting, fancy night out, that's very different to the norm, then this is the place to go. I imagine it would be excellent for a stag do, for example. At the weekends there's entertainment in the form of music and dancing in the lower floor, so you could really make a night of it. More information, plus the full menu, can be found on their website, here.