"Transport yourself to Africa for an unforgettable experience"Review Rating: Reviewed by KimT
A friend had arranged to celebrate her birthday here with a group of her mates. I arrived just before 9pm on a Saturday evening – it was full but not too busy. The outside doesn’t look very special and there were two burly bouncers who didn’t even look at me as I entered. You immediately ride down an escalator into the dark but your eyes are transfixed with all the sea shell decorations on the walls and the huge wooden carvings in front of you.
There’s a reception area – with at least three hostesses at screens. They were friendly and efficient. I was told that my party hadn’t arrived and was invited to leave my coat at the cloakroom (£2). Then I was taken through tables and booths – all richly decorated in dark wood African masks and carvings and full of young, beautiful people – to the champagne bar.
The front of this is adorned with more carvings – African warriors – and on the end wall is a huge frieze of African animals with elephants dominating. The bar top is a sort of marble zebra pattern. A glass of Chardonnay whilst I wait is £8.50 and I am happy to sit in a prettily decorated armchair that has tiny mirrors embedded in it. There’s a small coffee table where I place my glass.
Then I take in just how big the place is. It’s huge – like a cave. And then I notice that we are effectively on a balcony and that there is a further – even larger – area below. Amazing. And everything – including the ceiling – is covered in those rich, dark carvings. Be warned that there’s no mobile phone signal here and I couldn’t get the Wifi to work.
My friends arrive and we ride down the escalator and are taken to our large booth. The table top is immense and intricately inlaid. Whilst we grapple with crocodile skin covered wine lists and menus, a man in a lion cloth appears and does a head stand whilst juggling. On the table behind a waiter is doing some sort of cocktail trick that generates bright flashes of flames. I join some of the girls as they visit the ladies. I pass a large bronze figure and on the floor of the ladies is a reclined leopard – again in bronze. The sinks are like baskets and it even feels African in there.
Back to the tables and some wine and water has been delivered. I study the menu. There’s a range of traditional choices (including beef steak), but the African game meats dominate – zebra, ostrich, buffalo, Springbok - all £25. There are vegetarian options such as the haloumi skewers (£15.50) and vegetable potjie (£12.95). I decide to be adventurous with my starter and select crocodile cigars (£14) which are battered and served with a spicy mayonnaise. It’s hard to describe the taste but the meaty texture had a slight fish undertone – delicious anyway. For my main course I opted for the snapper (£22) which was a generous portion and beautifully cooked. The side of fat fries (£3.50) went down well too.
I tasted my friend’s zebra – just like tender beef but with a hint of liver. It was a huge portion of three fillets. Those who had chosen ostrich or wildebeest were happy too. So the food gets good marks.
At this point, three wandering women in zebra outfits with rather tall headpieces passed by. They were dancing to the now rather loud club music and happily posing for photos with anyone who asked. It felt like I had been transported to the stage show of Lion King.
A couple of the group were smokers – so it was a bit of a trek to reach the exit, either take the stairs or the lift up to ground level and stand in the cold having had your hand stamped to allow re-entry. Good enough reason to give up. The upside was that as you walked back in you had to weave through the open areas that were now filled with people dancing.
Back at the table, the lights had been lowered and we were all bathed in a red glow and the music had become even louder. Conversation at this point became rather difficult so it left no option but to join the dancing. I was sad that I had to leave at midnight to catch my train but the rest of the group stayed on – the place stays open until 4am. There were still people arriving as I left.
It was a wonderful experience. Whilst the food wasn’t cheap it was well prepared and presented. And tasty. But the décor, ambience, friendliness of the staff, the entertainment, the theatre, the fabulous music, the dancing and that sumptuous rich décor that transports you to Africa makes it an unforgettable experience.
KimT reviewed Shaka Zulu on Wed 11 Dec 2013