Shaka Zulu, Camden Town

Located deep in the belly of Camden Market, Shaka Zulu is a far cry from the multitude of fast food options jostling for your empty stomachs in the market.   Infact it’s odd to see why it has materialised in Camden to begin with, a small fortune has been spent creating it and knowing the typical Camdenite and visitor it is not somewhere that will become a local haunt for them.   This is geared for the more affluent, a destination bar, quite how this will work with the Camden regulars is anyones guess.  But don’t let this digress from what they have achieved, visitors will be amazed by its stunning interior, even if it is over the top, it just avoids being gaudy, and being on the Taste card is an added bonus that you don’t have to pay the jaw dropping prices on the menu either as the food is actually a treat and shines despite the interiors best attempts to overshadow it.


We decide on eating here having been before and have a friend visiting for the week,  so we head out into the sodden streets as the rain continues to beat down,  our friend tells us of her relief she brought her boots as they are so waterproof, I wince as more rain slops into my worn out trainers and absorbing into my socks.

Set just along from the equally opulent Giglamesh it is not as prominent as we tiptoe along the slippery cobbles, the view masked by our umbrellas until you glance up and see a vast Zulu warrior statue guarding the entrance.  A solitary doorway and an escalator descending down into Camden’s bowels, the lighting is dim and there is an air of incense in the air, we shake off our umbrellas and emerge into a vast room.   This is the main bar of the venue, tonight it is empty, and you imagine how full it can get of a weekend, two long zebra patterned bars line the sides of the room, each displaying more spirits than a supermarket shelf.  Your eyes are drawn across the room, every table and chair is different covered in ornate carvings and colourful fabrics.

We are led across the room and we see there is another floor below, another escalator takes us even deeper underground, there is a huge central bar dominating the room, around this are seating areas circling the whole room, most are curtained off for tonight.

Once sat down you can really appreciate the space, your table and chairs are solid and carved, every inch of the walls and ceiling are covered with carvings, extent of work that has gone into creating the venue is a lot to take in, and what better way to do so than with a cocktail.   Whilst drinks are not part fo the Taste card discount, you’re essentially saving half the cost  of the food so it makes sense to spend the saving on a cocktail, no doubt the restaurants partaking in the Taste scheme are counting on this!   We order a Mai Tai, a coconut daiquiri and a Sufrica, pricey at £10.50 each but loaded with enough alcohol to get proceedings underway.

We begin feasting on some African bread and dip, they call it Shraak bread and goreme.  The bread came out piping hot but being so ravenous tore straight in anyway, the bread was somewhere between a pita and a naan, and very tasty too, the dip was a combination of cream cheese, feta and goats cheese blended to a dip and had a hit of garlic in there somewhere..  I am not sure how authentic that is, but it was delicious and will be trying my own version at home very soon.

For starters we chose Green lentil and plantain salad which my fellow diner was enthusing about, likewise the soft shell crab, something I have only ever encountered on a Chinese or Thai menu, it looked amazing and a good portion too.  Myself I chose the Kifto, described as an African version of a steak tartare using venison, the description never quite matched the dish, whilst my friends loved their meals, I was slightly disappointed.  The temperature was too cold to actually get much flavour of any meat, and the meat was also overpowered by chucks of onion and pepper and the spices they used were not exciting enough, it tasted slightly bland.

I decided to play it safe for the next course and ordered the fillet steak, at £27 it is expensive but when it will be half price on the Taste offer it is well worth it.   Perfectly cooked to my request, it was served with piri piri fries and a chakalaka which turned out to be a kind of warm sloppy spicy coleslaw.   My friends tried the Butternut Ravioli and the Bobotie which looked like a Shepherds pie with custard on top, not particularly appetising in appearance but his plate was clean by the end.

I skipped desert to go for the after dinner cocktails, one of which is a minty treat tasting of After Eight chocolates, but noticing a dessert/drink on the menu which would be half price as it is classed under the food menu I opted for tis, it was served as a milkshake, vanilla ice cream, whiskey, cream, and chocolate grated on top.   My friends had the milk tart and also  the cheese board which proved great value being half price as there was plenty of it served up.

The service should also get a mention, they are very attentive, friendly yet professional.

The bill came to a total of £155 for three people after the discount.    The offer was 50% off food which worked out at £61.35 which had been deducted from the bill, so when you factor in that the rest was the tip that is automatically added to the bill then the balance was made is of £70 worth of alcohol which was more than the food cost us, that covered 4 cocktails and a bottle of wine at £29.

If it were a get together for an AA meeting you could eat very well for a great price of £20 a head for 3 courses, but the lushes that we are insist of downing cocktails of a Monday night it made a huge difference to the bill, but it was a special occasion with a friend visiting from Vancouver that it was more than worth it.

I can’t imagine what the venue would be like when full on a weekend when most people are drinking, you’d certainly have to come with your credit card empty as a night on the cocktails would hit hard, but then it would attract the crowd who can afford it and that would not be my scene, but to come on a weeknight and taste the great food and experience the amazing decor firsthand is well worth it, and if money is tight, dine early and hit Camden’s pubs afterwards.

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4 Comments

  1. What a beautiful place.It looks exciting. I love that it has the different levels, and Joe…you should be a travel writer or a food critic.Your descriptions are amazing. Anyway, i was just wandering around your site. I am glad I came across this post, although you are making me a little hungry. I would love a drink too. What is your favorite drink?

    Reply
    • hmmm, a singapore sling. any cocktail actually but i do them at home, if i am out it is just beer or cider but it makes me bloated. i can’t vary well walk around the pub with a slice of pinapple and an umbrella in my glass, so i save it for holidays! I like things that don’t taste alcoholic but are

      Reply

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