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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Shaka Zulu, South African restaurant review (Camden Town)

Last year we had an opportunity to buy two vouchers entitling us to a free lunch until February. On the voucher ticket the date said until end December 2011, on the email containing the voucher the date was February 2012. This was, I thought a bad omen so I phoned up the restaurant to establish which was correct. February they said, so I booked for Sunday 23rd January.

The restaurant is in the middle of Camden Market and is just a door in the wall. Oh dear, I thought, what had we let ourselves in for. Anyway, we went in and there was an escalator which whisked us down into the murky depths.

The receptionist took our vouchers and queried the date. This was beginning to annoy me and I wished I had never booked the damn meal. I told the receptionist we were going to the bar and she was to come over to me when she had sorted it all out.

After waiting for nearly ten minutes for the barman to appear, Pam and I ordered a Klippie 'n' coke (an Afrikaans drink of a cheap brandy called Klipdrift and coca cola). This, actually, is a very "more-ish" drink and eventually the receptionist came over and said it was all in order.

I should hope so, but the Klippie had put me in a better mood and we were led to our table.

The décor was astonishing, the room was the largest I have been in and, I have been in palaces across Europe and Russia. There is even a further level also led to by escalators. I may add that these escalators are more "swish" than anything London Transport has to offer.

View from our table
Pam and I both had a duck carpaccio starter. We were a little apprehensive as I could have eaten the entire dish in one large mouthful! We had ordered a Chenin Blanc with the first course which we enjoyed, although it wasn't anything to write home about.
Their wine list was extremely extensive and some of the bottles were around the £100 mark, but in each of the many sections, there are always some bottles where you could just buy a glass. Many of the wines were, of course, South African, but many other countries were also included.
Our second course made up for lack of size and was much larger. Pam had a lamb spit and I ordered Boerwors sausage. The waiter came back and said there was no lamb but they could do it with beef. We agreed and our food arrived. Our dishes were filling and very much larger. We had a glass of Pinotage with the main course and that was much better than the earlier Chenin Blanc.

We heard some guy with the most gravelly laugh on the telephone; I had never heard such an infectious laugh. It turned out he was a Nigerian, which surprised me has he had Jamaican dreadlocks. At around six foot six he towered above everybody.

We got to know him later, but now our sweets had arrived. Pam had a type of Crème Brulee with some sort of liqueur in it. I had beautiful Koeksisters (you need to be South African to really know what they are) but they are very tasty and very sweet!

The Nigerian, whose name was Doi, came up to ask us how we were enjoying ourselves and I got talking with him. He was from the Yoruba tribe and I always get on with these very charming people. I had mentioned about a dessert which was really a drink with ice cream, three or four liqueurs and a chocolate topping. He went off for a while and returned with one of these 'on the house'.

Lounge area for coffee

I mentioned we would be back to celebrate my wife's 70th in 2013 but we couldn't afford to eat at their normal prices. (Even though the meal was £10 each with the voucher), our bill still came to over £70! He went downstairs and came back with a £30 voucher to help us out on Pam's birthday.

We then had an espresso each and I had a "Five Spears" South African KWV brandy to round off the meal. 

Going to the toilet was another experience, the "baskets" on the counter top on the right of the photograph weren't baskets at all but the actual wash basins! Unfortunately I didn't have the courage to check out the ladies toilet but Pam confirmed the basket basins.

I have taken some photographs but, quite honestly, they don't really show the size of the room, or how awesome it all was.It was too dark to show the actual size of the room so we were content to just photograph corners of it. The ones I have appended below are of the second level down from the ground floor.

We will go back on my wife's birthday, but I have a feeling that even with the voucher, we will be spending the best part of £150.

Cheap it isn't, magnificent it is! My tip is not to go there when it opens, wait at least half an hour after opening time before booking your meal. It takes half an hour to sort themselves out - very African, white or black!


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