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By JON DEAN
Friday, August 24, 2012
»There’s no denying Shaka Zulu is a destination in itself. Everything about the place oozes grandeur and it has the “wow” factor in spades.
Shaka Zulu, The Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road. NW1 8AB
Tube: Camden Town
Tel: 020 3376 9911
Mains: from £12.95
Wine: from £19.85 a bottle
Children welcome: Yes
Disabled access: Yes
Just entering the South African-themed restaurant is an adventure – you ride an escalator deep into the bowels of Camden Market and once you negotiate the front desk you are greeted by an amazing interior.
Every inch of the wall space is decorated by African trinkets and giant 10ft tall statues tower over the second floor from the restaurant below – it really does put the fear of God into you.
The cocktail bar is upstairs, and the resident mixologists clearly earn their keep; as well as a large array of more traditional efforts Shaka Zulu recently launched a range of meat-based drinks – the meatequita (tequila and chorizo), the Bloody Mary with bacon vodka and the salmon vodka with lemon.
They look a bit of a meal in themselves though, so we eschewed them on this occasion, instead plumping for the indulgent Daquiri duluxe and an inventive vanilla margarita.
Shaka Zulu doesn’t get any less spectacular when you open the menu, which features a bewildering variety of unusual meats from the plains of Africas, and we munched on some Biltong (cured meat) while we considered the many enticing options.
To start we had the crocodile cigar. There was a lot going on with the onion, peppers and chilli dip, but they made a pleasing combination.
I extracted a bit of crocodile to see what it was like, and I can report it is vaguely chicken-like, with a tougher texture.
With these we had the soft shell crab – big crustaceans beasts battered whole.
They were crisp, and had a satisfying taste of the sea, but came with the same bariss mayonnaise as the crocodile which was a bit disappointing.
For the main I was very keen to try the ostrich steak, but I think they were out of season, so I went instead for the zebra.
It’s a tough rangy meat, although tender when cooked rare, and the closest thing to it I have eaten is venison.
I did feel a bit like I was tucking into an endangered species, but I can definitely recommend the taste.
Our other main was the smoked black cod fillet, which came with steamed spinach rather than the advertised creamed variety.
On its own, the flesh was light, delicate and smooth, with a well seasoned flavour.
The crisp skin had a very strong ammonia flavour though, almost like a brie and was a bit of an acquired taste.
For the final round, we had a fairly pleasant mousse and an very entertaining cocktail – the rum blazer, which the waiter mixed at our table in a whirlwind of cinnamon flames, telling the history of the drink all the while.
It’s a majestic and a slightly surreal place to eat and the cocktails, surroundings and ambition of the menu are top notch. The food itself, whilst good, is probably a peg or two below that – and while it isn’t cheap, the Shaka Zulu experience is certainly one you will remember.