Tag Archives: restaurant

Restaurant review: Eating everything from the savannah at Shaka Zulu

sThis weekend, me and the boyfriend decided to take advantage of the empty flat in London before my sister moves in and have a weekend away to celebrate my birthday. We’ve both been so busy the last few weekends, we figured it would be good to get away and do something fun. We had originally planned to go to Zoo Lates, which is the late night opening at London Zoo where they have cabaret and entertainment, but sadly didn’t get tickets in time. I checked my phone while at work in the week and had a hilarious text from Mark saying he hadn’t managed to get the tickets so he had booked a table at Shaka Zulu, the South African restaurant in Camden Market so we could “eat the fuckers instead”.

bfNever one to pass up an opportunity for a good meal out at a fabulous restaurant, I was pretty excited to say the least. I had never really eaten much South African food but knew that I would like it, and after knowing others who had been to the restaurant and hearing rave reviews, I was certain we were in for a treat. Amusingly, Michelle Keegan was celebrating her birthday there the same night I was, although I’m sure she was on the champagne. We headed to the Tiki Bar first for a cheeky Pimms in the sunshine, while live singers performed. It was such a gorgeous sunny day and the Pimms just put us in the summer mood.

bWe arrived at the restaurant and were taken straight to our own booth, on the way to our table I couldn’t help but just stare at everything around me. Shaka Zulu is beautifully decorated from top to bottom, with giant statues of South African warriors, tribesmen and animals, engraved and carved walls with gorgeous designs and the most fantastic  furniture – I was in love with the chairs! The service was amazing, I felt like we had our own personal team of waiters ready to jump if we needed anything and eager to recommend dishes. I couldn’t resist visiting the ladies, just to have a walk around the rest of the restaurant, which was equally impressive with a champagne bar, massive group tables downstairs and another gorgeous bar. Meanwhile, Mark chose us a delicious South African wine which went beautifully with the food.fdMore importantly, what did we eat? Well, we went all out guys, both starving and desperate for some really tasty food. We decided to eat our way around the savannah and by gum, I think we did pretty well. We started with the top dishes, the left is Ham Hock & Wildebeest Terrine with Papaya Salsa and the right is Crocodile Cigars. Both were incredibly tasty dishes with an exciting array of flavours. The wildebeest had a lovely meaty flavour which worked well in contrast to the ham hock, and I loved the papaya salsa – it seemed out of place on the menu, but it certainly hit the spot on the plate. The crocodile was interesting, although I wasn’t expecting the spring roll style, I really enjoyed the taste. It has definitely left me wanting to try crocodile again, next time I would like to try the meat without the spring roll style just so I can really get the individual flavour of the meat. Both were great dishes that certainly had our mouths watering for the second course, but we didn’t have long to wait!

The second course was absolutely my favourite because both dishes were just delicious. It makes my mouth water now to remember them. We shared the Zebra Fillet and the Springbok Loin, with sides of Sugar Snaps & Red Onion, Creamy Spinach and Peri-Peri Fries. Wow. What a feast! The first time I had tried any of these meats, but as a big fan of venison and lamb, I was sure to enjoy them. The zebra was lovely, strangely it looked a lot like lamb but with a different flavour that I don’t think I can compare to anything else I have tried. It went really nicely with the spinach and the fries. My favourite was the springbok, which was just so full of flavour and really reminded me of gamier meats like venison. It was gorgeous with the red wine jus and the red onions from the sugar snaps dish. It was the kind of food where you feel like you need a few minutes to recover because each mouthful is so good. The side orders were delicious, the peri-peri fries were flavoured to perfection and the spinach really added to the tastes of the foods.meAll in all, a pretty darn good birthday meal and I’d like to say a huge thanks to the guys at Shaka Zulu for making it special. I will most definitely be going back again and I seriously recommend that you give it a try too. A perfect restaurant for a special occasion with plenty of entertainment – there was African drummers performing and dancing around us as we ate! If you like experimenting with food and you love a good steak, South African is perfect for you and will introduce you to a host of new flavours and textures – just what all of us food-lovers enjoy! It may be a tad more expensive than you might usually pay for a steak, but for me, quality speaks volumes over quantity and I would always rather a high quality piece of meat.

Have you been to Shaka Zulu – what did you think? Are you a big lover of South African food – what’s your favourite dish?

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Restaurant review: Rediscovering a taste of Italy

IMG_4959As with every visit to New York, this holiday was not complete without a return trip to Little Italy and another attempt to find the gorgeous little family-run restaurant we stumbled into one time to get out of the rain. Years ago, when we made our first visit to The Big Apple, we headed down to Chinatown, Soho and Little Italy for a wander around, unfortunately on the wettest day. It was raining so hard that it seemed like droplets were rising from the pavement to hit me in the face. Despite umbrellas, raincoats and boots, we were soaked to the skin and couldn’t seem to get out of the storm. Eventually, tired, soggy and after getting very lost, we stumbled into Little Italy and into one of the first restaurants we spotted – Amici II.

IMG_4788This cute little restaurant was only small and run by a family who serve the finest foods from their home of Napoli. The restaurant itself was simple, clean and let the walls do the talking – packed with pictures, messages and memorabilia from customers of years gone by, right up the the present. The photos were of families, couples and groups of friends with the owners who had clearly created a legacy among friends that had customers returning for all their special occasions, family meals or just a light lunch.

IMG_4958As a family, ever since that first meal we have made it our business to return to the restaurant. The second time it was again sheer luck that we stumbled across it although we had hoped to find it again – we couldn’t remember the street so it was a lot of guess-work! Since, I have refused to remember the street address, instead preferring to follow my instincts and have always managed to find it, despite entering Little Italy from various directions. I reckon it was just meant to be! The first time we were there, my dad and I kept it simple with a spaghetti with garlic, chilli and oil. Simple proved effective and it was a delicious meal that warmed us up nicely after the wet walk there. My mum had a seafood pasta dish that she said was also amazing, while my sister went for a lasagne which she loved. Sadly I can’t remember what we had the other times, but I know that we absolutely loved it and that it was one of the best Italian meals any of us has ever had – including those in Italy!

IMG_4955This visit was extra special because it was our proper celebration meal for my mum’s 50th birthday which had been a few days earlier. She was adamant that she wanted to spend her birthday meal at this lovely restaurant with a glass of red wine in hand and a plate of delicious pasta in front of her. She was determined on this visit that her dish of choice would be carbonara.

IMG_4956My sister Laura, left, and I were dying to try the food again, Laura was craving pizza while I had a fancy for some seafood and spice. We were all thrilled to be back and couldn’t wait to try out the menu, which is made up of all the classic Italian dishes with a Napoli twist and some special dishes unique to the area. All brimming with flavour and freshly cooked.

IMG_4793I was also loving the wine – house white so I’m not sure of a name, but it was delicious and from the Napoli area. Gorgeous and in a half carafe for myself, served in the lovely big glasses – the only way wine should be served! It was the perfect way to relax after a lot of walking around the shops in Soho. The restaurant was nicely busy, but not packed as it has been when we went later in the day before. There was a group who were going for several courses, and a few pairs just popping in for lunch.

IMG_4794We started with a shared platter of fried zucchinni with a spicy tomato sauce – perfect for sharing, freshly made in the tiny kitchen and so tasty. We’ve had these before in other restaurants, but never quite as crispy or delicious. When we had them before they were served as fried disks which stayed a little soggy as the vegetables (courgettes) are quite wet naturally. The crispier the better in the case of fried anything, but as someone who doesn’t usually like fried food, I found these light and non-greasy. Just full of flavour.

IMG_4957Words cannot describe my main meal – it was beyond anything I could have hoped for and had my taste buds firing on all cylinders. I went for a special dish of black linguine with shrimps after making a hard decision between several dishes including lobster ravioli. I chose this in the end because I had not yet tried black linguine and because the dish just combined all of my favourite flavours in the king prawns and garlic. The decision paid off and it really was exquisite – the best meal I have had there yet. I would really recommend you try this dish if you visit, but whatever you choose will be fantastic. Laura went for the pizza and said it was also really yummy.

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The noises of contentment and mouth-watering dishes continued across the table where my mum was tucking into the spaghetti carbonara she had been waiting for  all those months – she couldn’t stop raving about it! I tried a mouthful and it was definitely the best carbonara I have ever tasted – so creamy and the bacon really gave it some flavour. Dad was also loving his chicken parmagiana with pasta which really says something because he makes an amazing version of the same dish! The chicken was tasty and crispy and, of course, the pasta was perfectly cooked. Happy faces and empty dishes surrounded the table – can anything show a top restaurant any better than that? If you go to Little Italy – I’m sure there are many amazing restaurants lining the streets, but I would seriously recommend Amici II if you want wholesome, good quality food that is full of Napoli flavour from a staff that will do anything to make your meal perfect. A true expression of Little Italy.

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Have you got a restaurant you always return to for the amazing food and staff? What’s your favourite pasta dish?

Restaurant review: Fear and food – a lethal combination

edit 4With the constant opening of new restaurants across the city, New York foodies and tourists are always looking for the latest flavours, the place that pushes the boundaries of everyday grub and something with just a little more wow-factor. As a result, loads of entertainment-related restaurants have opened up with cabarets, live music, comedy and all sorts of entertainment. Some do it well, others less so. The problem is that so many restaurants, both in NYC and over here in the UK, put either full emphasis on the food, or the entertainment and the other is done rather half-heartedly, or, worse, they are both done badly. So when we spotted the Jekyll & Hyde Club, just off Times Square, we couldn’t resist finding out if it really was all that – or just a bit of fun.

edit 1The outside of the restaurant was what caught our eye when on the way back to our hotel one night and we had to stop and chat with the scary looking chap outside in his top hat and tails. We checked whether we would need to book for one of the following nights and were told just to turn up and prepare to be scared.

After having been to Disney in both Paris and Florida, plus theme parks like Alton Towers when they have had special events, I’ll be honest and say that we were expecting it to either be really good entertainment with average food, or really cheesy entertainment with average food. We didn’t go there expecting a gourmet meal and we weren’t even convinced the entertainment would be that amazing. How wrong we were!

edit 2Don’t worry, I won’t be giving all the shocks and surprises away. But here I just want to give you a taste of this incredible restaurant – the decor alone speaks for itself! We were led into the building – with a choice between the scary or the regular entrance – of course we chose the scary one and make sure you do as well! After being led through a series of small rooms – all of which came alive in unique ways – we were a bit giggly by the time we reached the restaurant and didn’t know where the next surprise would come from.

IMG_4933A walk round the restaurant showed us the whole room was filled with unusual items hanging from the walls, spooky portraits with eyes that followed you, crazy Siamese twins, huge elephant or mummy heads, skeletons and much more. It was an astonishing sight and there was so much to take in. In front of us, as you can see from the top picture, was the main stage where the mad scientist brought Frankenstein’s monster back to life before our very eyes in one of the many dinner shows.

IMG_4934Throughout our meal, and the evening, the walls and statues around us would unexpectedly come to life to talk to the customers, play music, as spiders scuttled across the paintings or blood dripped down the walls. There was even a robot behind my dad who nearly made him choke on his dinner when it started doing “The Robot” dance! So funny! It was just spectacular and so well done, plus all of the staff were thoroughly involved and in character the whole time which made it all the more spooky and magical.

edit 3Now for the food – the bit you’ve all been waiting for! We all dug into the best burgers that I think we have ever had in the city throughout our four trips over there. We didn’t expect to be overwhelmed by the food at all, but these gorgeous hunks of juicy meat smelt divine and the flavours were just perfectly combined. The quality of the meat made them all the more delicious, which always seems to be of such a better standard everywhere than it is in the UK.

 

I went for the barbecue burger – with a delicious bourbon barbecue sauce, plenty of cheddar, bacon, grilled red onions and salad. Wow – I normally wouldn’t go for a barbecue burger because I often find the sauce overpowering, but this bourbon sauce sounded so tasty I couldn’t resist. It was so tasty it is making my mouth water to even write about it, and served with these home cut French fries – just perfect. My mum went for the steakhouse burger to get her fix of the blue cheese crumbles after a burger she ordered elsewhere with them turned up without. She said it was worth the wait and she reckoned it was one of the best burgers she had ever had and the home-made steak sauce tied it all together. My dad went for the California burger which came with avocado and cilantro mayonnaise – it smelt lush and he certainly enjoyed it. The food was just perfection and washed down with delicious wine and local beers – all the other customers seemed to be enjoying their meals just as much. I think if I went back, I could definitely have to try a steak – I’m sure they would have been just as juicy and delicious!IMG_4926We all left with a big smile on our faces and we knew it was well worth the trip in. The night was made all the better thanks to the amazing staff and our lovely server (whose name I sadly have forgotten but I remember she was from Alaska!) who kept us entertained and well stocked with food and drinks all night. She was so lovely and friendly, chatting to us about what we had been doing on holiday and about her plans to visit London. Service like that really makes a meal out and we all really appreciated it – plus the amazing outfits they were wearing and all those involved in the shows. All of the staff worked hard to keep up the spooky atmosphere and you could tell how much they enjoyed their jobs.IMG_4935A truly awesome restaurant, not at all cheesy, and definitely one to make sure you visit when you next go to New York. It’s also great for birthdays or parties – if I ever spend a birthday in the city, I will be sure to head back!

Have you ever been to the Jekyll & Hyde Club? What did you think?

Review: Heading to the Aqua Sana Spa to feel revitalised after a busy weekend

After a busy weekend meeting up with my university friends, a crazy night out of dancing in high heels, drinking cocktails and a day of eating food that is very bad for me, it was time to detox. With Friday and Monday off either side of the weekend, I was excited to have a few days off work to really relax and let my body catch up on itself. A big part of this was booking a spa day at the Aqua Sana at my closest Centerparcs (Elvedon).

My friend and I booked the pair’s Spa Day with Decleor Aromatherapy Mind and Body Re-energiser treatment. This gave us all day to enjoy the spa and all of its gorgeous steam rooms, sauna, outdoor heated pool and waterbeds. My favourite steam rooms are the Turkish Hammam to start because the menthol scent is great for clearing the lungs with some deep breathing. This followed by the Indian Blossom room, which is my absolute favourite – the scene is divine! Then the Japanese Salt Steam which is also  gorgeous and great for building up a sweat before a cool shower and heading outside to the newly-refurbished pool.

We enjoy a spa day every few months as a treat, but it has been closer to a year since the last one – life just got in the way this time! But it was great to go back after a longer break because the pool had clearly been replaced with brand new pressure jets, seating areas and massage sections which were amazing. Plus the fact that this time it was rather cooler outside meant the heat of the pool was completely enveloping like a warm blanket. But I think one of my favourite parts has to have been the nap I had on one of the water-beds – I definitely need one of these in my life! They offer total relaxation and within seconds of laying my head upon the pillow, I am drifting away into a deep sleep.

We had breakfast and lunch at the Vitale restaurant in the spa, both provided as part of the deal we booked. We enjoy a delicious raspberry and vanilla pastry with hot chocolate and coffee. Later, at lunch, we enjoy fresh paninis in soft, white bread with fillings such as roasted vegetables with grilled halloumi and pesto, and roasted peppers with brie accompanied by fresh juices and water. We followed this with a treat of a chocolate, hazelnut praline truffle cake each – to die for.

After a few more hours relaxing around the spa and warm showers, we headed to the treatment rooms for our Decleor Aromatherapy Mind and Body Re-energiser. Described as “A heavenly massage of easing the tension from mind and muscles. Skin is treated to the wonderfully soothing sensation and exquisite aroma of a warm Decleor Aromaessence Balm. The expert touch of your therapist’s hands melts away stress and eases tense, tired muscles to unwind body and spirit leaving you with renewed energy.”

The treatment was divine, it started with a back massage that led to arms and legs being moisturised and massaged with oils, before finishing with a facial. For one hour I was truly in heaven and my muscles were oh so grateful after the stresses and exertions of the last few months. My shoulders appreciated the massage more than anything and it was lovely to have my face pampered and left softer than a baby’s you-know-what after the oils, masks, creams, lotions and potions had been applied.

I had a wonderful time at the spa and for the money we paid – £90 each – it was incredibly good value. We had a treatment worth over £70, two meals, access to the spa, steam rooms, sauna and pool all day and robes and towels provided. I have been to other spas in the area and have yet to find one that offers quite as good a deal, and such good quality  every time. Elvedon also offers far better a spa than the Sherwood Forest spa in Nottinghamshire, from my experience. I’m already counting down to when I can book the next one!

Pictures from The Good Spa Guide.

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Review – Cookie’s Crab Shop

Review - Cookie’s Crab Shop

I went to this gorgeous crab restaurant in Salthouse, on the glorious North Norfolk Coast, last weekend.
Accompanied by my parents and my other half, we headed out to the coast specifically to try the shellfish at this restaurant after a mention in the Sunday Times magazine.
Easy to find, and cute as anything, the restaurant (which was more of a cafe than anything else) looked out over the marshes and on a beautifully sunny day, without a cloud in the sky, was the perfect setting for some fresh, Norfolk seafood.
The staff were friendly, efficient and served us the very best they had on offer while telling us all about the latest catch and what were the best combinations.
We went for prawn and garlic pate and potted shrimps to start, with Royal crab salads and a tiger prawn salad for mains.
The food was delicious and could not have been fresher unless it jumped straight out of the ocean and on to my plate.
There was such a relaxed atmosphere, and even the option of bringing along your own wine to accompany the food, as some of the diners had done.
I would heartily recommend the place to anyone with a fondness for seafood or a wish to try crab as it should be served.
The meal was followed by a drive through the stunning villages along the coast, with a quick stop in Thornham before we headed to Old Hunstanton to see my pretty little beach hut, which is having work done on it at the moment but I shall post pics when it is finished and re-painted.