A TASTE OF SOUTH AFRICA
After 15 minutes of finger tapping and fidgeting in the waiting area of the restaurant, it was clear to see that ‘Shaka Zulu’ was still in the early stages of development and there is a lot to address. The senior manager looked inexperienced and somewhat inadequate to deal with the hungry customers flocking through the restaurants doors. The reception area had five members of staff behind the desk who seemed to be busy doing nothing.
This was far from the hospitality I was used to when dining at prestigious restaurants and I felt a little anxious. However, I was also extremely hungry, as I did not eat anything in anticipation of the visit, so I was determined to overlook the luke warm welcome.
The building is spectacular and more resembles a museum than an eatery, with every inch of the deco hand crafted with African woodcarvings dedicated to the life of Shaka Zulu, the great African leader. The restaurant was created from the deep passion of entrepreneur Roger Payne and his amazing team, whom share a love of the culture and countryside of the Kwazulu-natal region. The restaurant has been built through admiration for the story and historical significance of King Shaka Zulu and is said to be one of the biggest restaurants and clubs of its kind in Europe. Payne spared no expense on the whopping £5.5 million venue, which can house around 750 people. However it’s not all about the glitz and glamour of the restaurant. I was more interested to learn Payne started the Charity Education Africa alongside King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, where an optional £1 cover charge from all the main restaurant diners is donated by Shaka Zulu to help fund vital education projects in KwaZulu-Natal and elsewhere in South Africa.
As we were seated on oak thrones, the waiter brought over our starters of deep fried soft shell crab covered in a crisp, deep flour curried batter with a dash of lime. The starter certainly made up for the earlier indiscretions and everything was forgiven. My taste buds were truly overjoyed. Crab is usually the only meat on the menu that I stray away from but this was very well seasoned and full of hot chilli flavours, which warmed the back of my throat and had me craving the main dishes.
The menu is well presented, but there were a few exotic dishes that needed explaining, as it is not everyday you see springbok, bobotie, and ostrich, so we were forever asking the waiter to explain each course, which he did with a smile. I suspect he gets asked quite often, as he went through each dish without even a token glance at the menu.
The waiter suggested we try the ‘South African Game Board’ to get an authentic insight into South African culture. I will hold my hands up and say that I did not read the menu properly before agreeing with the waiter’s selection, so I was astonished when a rather large platter containing 900g of pure, unadulterated meat was air lifted (Maybe a slight exaggeration) to the table. It sounded like the waiter was naming the cast of the Lion King as I was informed that the platter consisted of springbok, kudu, ostrich, zebra and boerwors with chutney, with a side of peri peri fries and chakalaka thrown in for good measure.
I was extremely pleased I was not dining alone as it would have been an almighty shame to not finish such an accomplished dish. As I took the final chunk out of my zebra, a feeling of self-satification came over me because of my carnivorous achievement. Each meat was truly amazing, and a treat that I would order again without a thought, but at £70.00, I don’t think my wallet would enjoy the experience (much to the disappointment of my stomach).
After hours, Shaka Zulu turns into a lively social club, with live bands, private booths and adventurous deco. The perfect way to relax / exercise (delete as appropriate) after a satisfying meal.
Shaka Zulu offers a unique cultural experience and gives an interesting insight into African history.