Some weeks ago, I had the good fortune to catch up with Gavin Jefferson. This goliath (and don't take my word for it, check his Twitter profile) is larger than life, and damn-near chilled to perfection. We'd long hashed out the idea that we'd need to hang at some point and talk 'bass, weights, and game.' Which we finally did, some weeks ago at the Blues Kitchen up in Camden.
Where we ordered no food and bailed before the live music started. My fault, on both counts. Anyhow.
What I had told Gavin at the time, in terms of what was in and around Camden, was that not too far inside Camden Market, there was an African restaurant called Shaka Zulu. And how, for all the times I'd been there, I'd never eaten anything. But from friends, previous dates and associates, et al, the place has come highly recommended.
Gavin then tells me he's due to be around soon - but that Shaka Zulu has closed. Quick-fast, I head to their website and see that they are indeed closed.
I first caught wind of Shaka Zulu as a restaurant some years back. This was off the back of a trip to Miami, of all places. Where I went with a bunch of the guys in July - not my idea. Where we'd been lounging on the beach; them in shorts, shades and ball caps, puffing on cigars. Me in t-shirt, jeans, Tims, and Kangol. Then comes disbelief that I came to Miami without shorts or flip-flops, and that it never occurred to me to go swimming. I was soon given my marching orders. Told that they would 'get my sexy black ass in them waves.' To their credit, the guys succeeded. Good fun, too.
For one of the guys, who has a December birthday, the celebration was dinner - and possibly more - at Shaka Zulu. For those unaware, Shaka Zulu was not only a bar as well as a restaurant, but also served as a club; playing R&B and hip-hop. Anyhow. For my man's birthday, I turn up at the pre-arranged time that night. Waiting outside in the cold. Dipping inside once or twice to see if the guys were actually there but snuck past me somehow. No such luck. The decor is dimly lit, and decorated with exquisite carvings of life-sized tribal warriors, jungle cats, et al. A proudly African vibe.
And after waiting about a half-hour or so, I went home cold and hungry, not having met up with the guys. Who, it turns out, exercised lousy timekeeping and showed up that much later. You think I'd have learned my lesson for when that happened in the year(s) to come - but, no.
The best look I had in there was when a singles/matchmaking company staged an event a while ago. Even as I was only in there for drinks and speed-dating, I got a chance to have a better look at the place. And the décor. And the menu (serving the likes of grilled sea bass, buffalo striploin and crocodile steak). Foodie that I am, this part's important.
Despite the fact that this jewel in Camden Market has closed, it's not the only place in London where you can sample such fare. What's struck me about London is that there are always new places to discover. There are places I've still not been to - Dans le Noir is a prime example. And yes, it is eating in the dark. Having been up at The Dilly (hotel bar) in Piccadilly Circus recently, I wonder how long that's been there. When I stepped to the Monmouth Kitchen in Leicester Square two weeks after it opened some years ago, I was blown away by the place - especially since I'd been up at Forbidden Planet about a month earlier.
For all the places in the capital that might disappear, there are always those places that humbly step into the landscape and wait to be discovered, visited, Instragrammed; you name it. The city continues shift and evolve into more of the same, and it does so without fanfare or apology. Me, I'm just along for the ride. What can I say? - I love London.
But then, you already knew that.
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