Shaka Zulu was an enigma for me. In the eleven years that I have lived in London, I have always been intrigued by this restaurant that brings the taste sensations of South Africa to London palates. So when my good friend M suggested a Friday night catch up over dinner at Shaka Zulu, I was game.
The moment you step off the downward escalator to this subterranean level, you are mesmerised by the colossal size, lavish scale and stunning setting that opens up in front of you.
A visual extravaganza awaits your eyes as you are transported to a mystical and magical place. The vast interiors are definitely impressive with staggering amount of details.
Carved wooden murals inspired by African themes, animal sculptures and gargantuan warrior statues complete the epic look. This place truly has the wow factor.
The entire restaurant is spread across two levels seating about 800. On the entrance level is the bar with seating for casual dining whilst the more formal restaurant is a level below.
Perhaps the only eyesore is an escalator smack in the middle of it all, connecting these two levels that really serves as a shocking reminder that we are still very much in a city.
We opted for the Taste of Africa Menu, which includes three courses and a champagne cocktail. We thought this was the best value for money and a good introduction to the culinary flavours of South Africa.
For starters, I had the Game and Ostrich Terrine with Sweet Papaya Salsa and Ciabatta Wafers. I am a big fan of terrine and this one did not disappoint – it had the rich, gamey flavours, moist but firm with a bit of a crumbly texture. However, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it had ostrich meat in it had the menu not told me. The salsa added a sweet accompaniment to break down the savoury notes of the terrine.
M ordered the Cape Malay King Prawns and Chilly Jelly which she described as spicy but flavourful. The presentation could have been a bit better though!
Both of us ordered the 8 Oz Ostrich Fillet with Red Wine Jus and Straw Potatoes (£7.50 supplement). I have never tried ostrich before so I approached this dish with much trepidation. Thankfully, all my fears were put to rest when I tasted the meat. The fillet itself was quite a good cut, thick but juicy and perfectly cooked medium rare. The texture was quite distinctive – very smooth, like a thick piece of cod but in meat form. You almost forget it is a bird meat because it is so red. Apparently, ostrich meat has lot less calories than beef.
Midway through our meal, the atmosphere was suddenly amplified by the evening’s entertainment. A group of singers and dancers walked from table to table, getting people to shake to some African beats. It really set the tempo high and got us dancing on our feet!
Last but not least – puddings. So far the food was enjoyable but we were not completely bowled over by it as much as we were by the ambience. But the arrival of desserts changed all of that.
I ordered the Dark Chocolate Tart, with Chantilly and Honeycomb crackling. The tart was rich and soothing, with texture added from the perfectly cooked base and the honeycomb. It had the most delicious and indulgent chocolate filling – a flawless finish to the meal.
M had the Vanilla Panna Cotta with Poached Champagne Strawberries. The Panna Cotta was creamy, silky smooth and melt-in-the-mouth with the just the right amount of wobble! The strawberries added boozy and sharp notes to cut that creaminess. Altogether, it was a winning dish!
To end on an even sweeter note, our lovely waitress treated us to a third dessert on the house – the Melktert (South African milk tart) with Cinnamon Chantilly. This was our first time trying this dish and it was luxurious, almost custardy with warm, woody notes of the cinnamon coming through.
I think the desserts at Shaka Zulu are truly outstanding and we applaud the chef who is creating these desserts. In terms of both taste and presentation, these were spot on and in a league of their own.
Shaka Zulu is truly a destination restaurant with a strong concept. It offers diners an atmosphere that is lively and upbeat and experiences that are unmatched. The food is expensive but the energetic vibes and the visual story-telling entices and reels you in.
The benchmark of true success of a themed restaurant, especially one which is evocative of a particular region or culture, is determined by how well it is received by the people of that culture. Judging by the packed restaurant that evening, it is safe to say that Shaka Zulu is a firm favourite.
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N.B. All opinions and views expressed in this blog are my own. The photographs used have been taken by me. I review anonymously and pay for my meals.