“ Address: Stables Market / London / NW1 8AB / Tel: 020 3376 9911 „
Shaka Zulu Lounge Bar is situated on the mezzanine level of Shaka Zulu - a venue which consists of a restaurant, bar and nightclub.
I am specifically reviewing the Lounge Bar here as I do not have experience of the Seafood and Oyster Bar, Braai Restaurant or Chef's Table parts of the venue, nor do I think I will ever gain experience of those parts of Shaka Zulu so you might have to go there yourself to check out those parts!
HOW DID I COME TO BE THERE?
A close friend recently celebrated her 40th birthday and chose to have an evening out with an intimate ground of friends and family at Lounge Bar of Shaka Zulu. I had never even heard of the venue so when I received the invite I needed to look up how to get there and in the process of doing so I came across the venue's website which is at http://www.shaka-zulu.com/ with the Lounge Bar specifically at http://www.shaka-zulu.com/lounge-bar.php
From seeing the photos of the venue, I was rather gobsmacked, I imagined it was going to be a very interesting experience and then went looking for online reviews of the place. The opening line of a review published in the Independent reads "Any restaurant whose launch party can bring together, under one frenetically decorated roof, the King of the Zulu Nation and Amy Winehouse, has surely got to be worth a look." Well I was amused enough by this to read the rest of the review and was thankful that we weren't going for a meal here as the prices sounded ridiculously high and nothing on the menu appealed to me.
THE LOOK AND FEEL AND THE SERVICE
The one thing you can't say when you walk into this place is that it's bland! Every wall and ceiling screeches out to you to take notice of it! When you first walk in you feel in awe of the tribal looking statues and intricate designs just everywhere. So much so that it's all too much to take in. It screams oppulence and you'd be forgiven for thinking you've walked into some sort of African museum due to the (what I felt personally) over the top nature of the decor. I'm not saying it was unpleasant but it was just a bit too much "in your face". Some of the statues even seemed quite intimidating if I'm totally honest and they seemed like they were glaring at you!
Shaka Zulu had a really buzzing atmosphere from the minute we walked in to the time we left (which was about 2.20am). The bar shuts at 2am as does the club and we thought we might get an extra hour there as the clocks went back an hour (at 2am apparently) but no such luck. The music was a good mix all night and seemed to cater to all age groups and all tastes. We didn't want to move all of our coats and bags, etc, downstairs to the club area so we were happy to dance near our table, as a few members of our group went to the club area and said it was too crowded and we'd not be able to sit in between dancing. The DJ certainly knew how to get people up and dancing and he was a good DJ - the transition from one song to the next was done smoothly with no awkward gaps or jumps in betweem.
The walls of Shaka Zulu are adorned with tribal masks, mosaic designs and all manner of intricate detail influenced by the Zulu nation. From the research I did about Shaka Zulu before I went there I found out that it was supposed to open in time for the 2010 Football World Cup but due to the workmen having to work to apparently quite exacting standards the place didn't open to the public until mid August 2010.
We arrived at the bar at around 9.30 on a Saturday evening and as we approached the front door, I was rather in awe of a huge Zulu statue towering over the entrance. The door staff were extremely friendly and polite and advised us to go down the solitary escalator and to the left where we would find reception who should show us to our party. Please note here that it makes sense to book a table in advance as otherwise it seems you have to stand all evening or possibly not even gain entrance to the bar. There were three or four girls standing at the terminals in reception yet only one had access to the list of the bookings. I found this quite strange and it was somewhat annoying having to wait for what seemed like ages for the girl with the list to look people up (the two girls in front of us had to eventually point out their names on the list which were quite clear but the girl seemed to have trouble spotting their names). When it came to our turn we gave the name of our friend who had made the booking and again the girl got rather confused. I pointed out my friend's name on the list and we were then escorted to our tables. As there were about a dozen people in our group we had been given a section with two tables - it was a nice layout - cosy and intimate for the size of our group but big enough so that you could spread out and keep coats and bags on the seats if you didn't want to check them in at the cloakroom (which was by reception). I didn't like the small stools which were provided with the tables as they had a rather bright fabric covering (in keeping with the over the top nature of the rest of the venue) but also had what were I presume to be cat heads poking out of the side and these were just badly designed as I bumped my leg when trying to slide in under the table and it quite hurt!
I found the service levels to bit a of a mixture but the young lady who was waiting on our table provided an absolutely exceptional service to us all evening. Nothing was too much trouble, she kept coming back to the table regularly to make sure we weren't going thirsty and she was happy to provide extra glasses all evening as we had a mixture of vokda bottles, champagne, white and red wine as well as various soft drinks and water. She had a permanent smile whenever she came over which came across as genuine and it really made the evening all the nicer for having her looking after our drinking and snacking needs.
When I needed to use the toilets I asked one of our group where the ladies toilets were and was pointed towards the other side of the bar. I toddled off without my handbag and went through the doors by the bar to find what I assumed were the toilets, there was a rather bizarre sign on the door which didn't seem to imply ladies OR gents but I went in anyway. There were no urinals in there so I assumed that it was a ladies toilet. One of the two cubicles was covered in what I can only assume was urine whilst the other one wasn't - there was no toilet roll so I trundled back out and stopped a girl who was walking round to behind the bar if that was the ladies toilet, she said it was and when I advised her there was no toilet roll, she said quite abruptly "there is another toilet downstairs!" No offer to replenish the toilet roll nor any attempt to tell me how to get to the downstairs toilets. Considering it was 11.30pm I really had hoped they would have the courtesy to sort out the toilets on the bar level rather than telling people to go downstairs. I was rather miffed so went and retrieved my handbag in which I always keep a packet of tissues and returned to the same toilets. As I was washing my hand a couple of girls were fixing their makeup and seemed to be under the impression they were in a totally different club (Gilgamesh) and were a bit stumped when I said that venue was a few doors away and this was Shaka Zulu. A chap then walked into the toilets and did his business in the cubicle which was covered in urine. He didn't seem at all bothered to see 3 women in the toilets and walked out without washing his hands - we were all gobsmacked! After that I assumed the toilets were unisex but there was no clear indication of whether this was the case or not! My husband had been to the gents toilets on the same floor and said they were very clean but like everything else in the venue, the gents were way over-decorated. It wasn't my experience of the toilets that I went to. Unless I had wandered into a different club by stepping through to the other side of the bar the toilets I saw definitely weren't in keeping with the rest of the place.
To leave the venue (or to have a cigarette) you go up a set of stairs which reeks of cigarette smoke due to the door at the top of the stairs being kept open all evening whilst a doorman stands guard. I have to admit that I found the doorman very pleasant every time we went in or out for fresh air/for a smoke. The only time he exerted his authority was when a couple who were extremely drunk and could barely stand tried to regain entrance and he refused to let them back in. Just as well as they looked like they would fall down the stairs and/or throw up everywhere!
I thought the exit could have been more appealing - it almost had a feel of "You've been here all evening, we've taken your hard earned money, now on your way folks and we don't care how grotty the exit looks, you're probably too drunk to notice anyway!" The exit takes you to Camden Market's Stable Market area which in itself looked rather grotty.
I didn't notice any other way to get into the venue aside from the escalators down from street level but I did spot a lift near the exit so I would have to assume this could be used for disabled access although the seating layout in general didn't appear to be overly disabled friendly.
Hold onto your hats now as I tell you that we didn't spend any money the evening we went (I mean my husband and I). My friend (whose 40th birthday celebration it was) insisted on picking up the tab for the whole evening! BUT I do know how much some of the drinks cost that we had during the evening as I looked up the prices to satisfy my curiosity! I'm listing a sample of prices per glass and bottle to give you an idea of what sort of budget you'd need to spend an evening drinking at Shaka Zulu.
* Graham Beck Brut champagne £6 per 12.5cl or £29.50 for a 75cl bottle
* Laurent Perrier Brut £60 per bottle
* Dom Perignon £195 per bottle
* Laurent Perrier Grande Siecle Alexandra Rose £395 per bottle
* or you could always go for the Louis Roederer Cristal at £750 a bottle or splash out a bit more for the Krug Clos du Mesnil at a mere £950 per bottle
* Saam Mountain Chenin Blanc £5.85 per 17.5cl or £22.50 per 75cl
* Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc 2009 £8.20 per 17.5cl or £32.50 per 75cl
* Graham Beck Rose £6.00 per 17.5cl or £22.50 per 75cl
* Saam Mountain Pinotage £6.70 per 17.5cl or £24.50 per 75cl
* Springfield Wholeberry Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 £10.00 per 17.5cl or £39.50 per 75cl
Full wine and champagne list available here http://www.shaka-zulu.com/pdf/wine-list.pdf#view=fit
* Ultimate Matrini or Daiquiri Deluxe £15.00
* Sidecar £8.50
* Variety of shooters £4.50
* Non-alcoholic cocktails £5.00
* Sparkling cocktails £10.50
* Manhattan or Margarita or Mai Tai £8.50
Water £4.20 for 750ml
Fruit juices £3.00
Whisky and Single Malt Scotch (per 50ml measure)
* Talisker 10 year old £8.50
* Glenfiddich 21 year old £22.50
* Johnnie Walker Black Label £7.80
* Jameson's Gold £14.50
* Bushmills 10 year old £9.00
* Jack Daniels £11.504
Vodka prices ranged from £7.80 to £14.50 per 50ml measure (we went through two bottles at £150 each). I didn't see anyone drinking beer/lager nor could I find any prices listed for these, so I can only assume they don't serve these? One of our group asked for a Red Bull and was told they didn't sell them but they had an energy drink alternative which was bizarrely named "Pussy" which caused a lot of amusement! Bar snacks were available such as bowls of French Fries starting from around £2.50 which was quite reasonable. I would add here that when the bill was being settled there seemed to be no issue with the correct amount being charged and the credit card terminal worked just fine (considering I've read a couple of other reviews which stated there were problems with the credit card terminal and cash had to be paid). I can't imagine our host having had £500 or so in cash on them to settle the bill!
I felt had I not been in Shaka Zulu with such a good bunch of people I would have had more time to look at the decor and that would have been a somewhat bad thing. I had a great time there due to the crowd I was with and the excellent service received at our tables and the great music. The decor itself was just a bit too much for me and I know had I looked around more I would have got a severe headache. It was definitely a good evening but I don't think I'll be going back anytime soon unless it was someone very close to me having a major celebration. It's really not the sort of place I can afford to go to for just a regular evening out. Nor would I want to go for just an average evening out.
I was teetering between giving Shaka Zulu a 3 or 4 stars out of 5 but I'm leaning towards the 4 because I did pretty much enjoy the whole experience at the end of the day!
WHERE IS IT?
Shaka Zulu is located at Stables Market, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, London NW1 8AH
Reservations 020 3 376 9911 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Website for the bar: http://www.shaka-zulu.com/lounge-bar.php