Oh what a night! I dont really know how to describe the opening night (for us mortals) at Shaka Zulu, tipped as London's hottest restaurant - hot, it was. Or sometimes extremely cold, depending on whether you caught a blast of air conditioning or not. The queues around the block reminded me of the queues at the Seashell in Lisson Grove - oops, perhaps I should be more trendy and say the queues outside the Hard Rock Cafe'. But when I was young(er) and used to go to the Seashell, the waiters used to come out and give tastings of chips, morsels of fish and other goodies to those in the queues, who would continue to faithfully queue until a table became available. That was PR! Shaka Zulu, you missed trick No. 1! Maybe peanuts are not very typical of South Africa, but a few peanuts at the free (for a time) bar would have helped a lot. Interior wise, this place is absolutely stunning and well worth all the delays they faced when waiting for the statues, the carvings, the walls, to arrive. It is amazing. Should I say this? But it reminded me of central part of Westfield London, where you are on the floor above and you look down into the atrium if you know what I mean. This architectural feature makes the most of the natural height of the building, and there is even an up and down escalator, shopping centre style! Cant wait to go back and see the whole thing in daylight - if there is any daylight, I presume so as the facade is all glass. Really, would love to see it in daylight.
The drinks were gorgeous, very good sparkling South African wine, decent still white wine, and the cocktails looked very interesting. But the queues were far too long. A journalist friend of mine gave up after queuing for half an hour and eventually left without having had a single drink or anything to eat at all. Missed trick No. 2: if you invite 800 people to fill the place, limit the drinks to sparkling and still wine, beer and maybe ONE cocktail (prepared in big batches) if you really want to showcase the cocktail making skill of the barmen (gorgeous staff by the way, and very skilled). But because they did things so well and so properly, every cocktail took 15 minutes to make and this is not on at an opening of this scale. Wish I could tell you about the food dear friends, but I can't - they didnt feed me, or any of the mortals upstairs. The super-mortals who got to do downstairs and share a meal with King Goodwill will have to tell me all about it. At midnight though, some little canapes came out, and I could not help by wonder, are these the left overs? But by that time I was too hungry to care, so I had one deep fried prawn (tail, shell, eyes and all, like a whitebait but it was a fully fledged prawn - not the prettiest of sights) and a skewer of what could have been ostrich meat - very tasty, but on the sweet side, maybe brushed with a honey marinade? South African cuisine is not a cuisine I am very familiar with as yet, but I intend to rectify that sooner than later.
The highlight? Seeing King Goodwill and his wife, what an absolutely charming man, very regal in every sense. And the zulu players, these guys played non-stop for hours, it was mesmerising rather than boring, they must have a hidden code of how one can take a quiet break whilst the other two make more noise, so that it still sounds like three people are drumming and singing. Because it is simply not humanly possible to keep up the beat and the singing for two hours solid. Great bodies too, by the way!
The downlight? For a first night, and of such a scale, I think Shaka Zulu did very well. And maybe they were right to serve nothing to the mere mortals. To serve morsels to the masses may not have achieved the purpose of showcasing Zulu cuisine, which is still largely unknown over here, people may not have understood it.
I am interested in the food. So, anyone willing to join me for food at Shaka Zulu?
I remain unsure of which crowd they are aiming at. Camden party people? Will they spend the money or will they just dance? Will Amy Winehouse become a regular? This place is practically on her doorstep.