By Charlotte Hope, Lifestyle Editor @TLE_Lifestyle
A rainy Wednesday evening normally warrants a big bowl of comforting chilli, something on the TV and probably an enormous chocolate based dessert. Last week, however, I braved the elements and ventured North, to Camden, playground of the early noughties indie darlings (see: The Libertines et al). In the hunt for my dinner venue I inadvertently took the scenic route, through the stables and past CyberDog (still open, by the way) until eventually I located it.
The venue for tonight’s dinner was Shaka Zulu, a South African restaurant snuggled behind Gilgamesh. Once found, my companion and I took the escalator down to the restaurant. That’s right, escalator. When the reservation was confirmed, the hostess showed us to our table. Through the darkly lit restaurant, down another escalator, across the restaurant floor and over to a table near the kitchen we went. We perused the menu and were brought some water quite promptly. It was slightly disconcerting being taken down an escalator in a restaurant but it was obscured from view when we were seated, which was fine with me.
We ordered Crocodile Cigars and a Snoek Pate to start. I’d never eaten either of these things, and neither had my companion, which was part of the appeal. The Crocodile Cigars were a sort of South African twist on the classic spring roll. They were full of flavour and had noticeable little bits of crocodile meat in, elevating a dish that could easily have been a gimmick. The Snoek Pate was equally as tasty but could have done with a few more carb-based accompaniments; there were only two small toasted breads to go alongside it.
We ordered some of the house red wine (a good test of a restaurant, in my opinion, is their choice of house wine) and were delighted to find it deliciously palatable. For the mains, I had Zebra steak. It seemed only reasonable, given the theme of the restaurant. I imagined myself lassoing a Zebra, clad only in khaki and sitting down to my hearty protein based dinner after tailing it for miles across African plains. It’s clear my understanding of the South African landscape needs some work, but what was also apparent was that the zebra was cooked exceptionally well. It was a little like a beef steak with a slightly more gamey flavour, and was served with a red wine sauce. My choice was criticised by my mother, who I obviously telephoned immediately after the meal to give her the low down because I’m 25 and that’s something I do, who wondered about the ethics of eating Zebra. I can confirm that they are farmed and it’s fine.
Not in the slightest bit still hungry, we gratefully accepted the dessert menu. Gluttony knows no bounds. We both opted for the mini-cones of home made ice creams. One was rice pudding flavour, which was quite nice. The chocolate took the trophy, though, and the little cones were adorable. We finished up and took leave of the restaurant, up the escalator and back out into the rain. I slept well, with a belly full of South African goodness, and would definitely return.
Shaka Zulu can be found at Stables Market, Chalk Farm Rd, London NW1 8AB