Down a quiet cobbled alleyway in the heart of Camden market, you wouldn’t expect to see a venue like Shaka Zulu.
At the entrance a 20ft Zulu warrior statue towered over us as we made our way underground via a single escalator. Inside, a strong smell of incense.
The South African restaurant is renowned for its over-the-top décor. The ceilings and walls are covered in animist figures and wooden carved animals. An array of Zulu Kings with spears stare at you dauntingly.
We ventured into the vast restaurant and bar connected with a dominant escalator – the main feature of the room.
It all seemed extraordinary – until the food arrived. A moment of despair quickly washed over our table, offering an explanation as to why our experience at Shaka Zulu was funded by a Groupon deal. £25 for a three-course meal and a champagne cocktail? It was too good to be true.
Our special offer menu consisted of chilli crocodile, springbok carpaccio and wildebeest terrine. First up, the chilli crocodile starter. “The taste of Africa” quickly became the taste of nothing: dry and bland. In the middle of my dish were five small strips of crocodile; the texture of dry chicken, with a drizzle of sweet chilli sauce and a sad salad portion with a dollop of chutney. What a waste of crocodiles.
Still extremely hungry, I wrestled through my main course, almost breaking my wrist trying to cut through the well done rib eye steak. Thankfully I had ordered peri-peri chips because the chips that came free of charge with the voucher were laughable. I can only describe them as the size of a match stick, lacking any sort of flavour.
The dessert was a dark chocolate tart with cream or ice cream (I’m still not sure) and a honeycomb base which brightened my mood but, again, the portion was measly and after a few mouthfuls it was history.
I cannot complain about Shaka Zulu’s service and hospitality. Our waiter served us with a smile and his efficiency was thorough. As we were politely asked to leave our table at 9.30 – to make our way upstairs to a reserved lounge booth – the moneyed Londoners soon filled our space with a Friday night ahead of dining and drinking.
Shaka Zulu, Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AB
Photographs by David Rothwell