AN opulent new venue opening next month in London is themed around King Shaka. It will offer the best of South African cuisine.
The R66million venue, also a nightclub, will accommodate about 750 people, according to the British Hospitality Association (BTA).
The multi-level venue is located in the Camden Stables Market, northwest of the city centre. The area is a popular shopping destination and tourist hotspot.
The project is the brainchild of Roger Payne, who also owns The Cuban bar and restaurant in the same area. Payne and Camden Markets have entered into a joint venture to develop the African restaurant.
The upmarket Shaka Zulu is touted as "London's hottest launch".
The BTA reports that the ground floor of the venue, which will double as a nightclub, will accommodate 400 people, while the mezzanine area will accommodate 340 people. Patrons will be able to sample the finest Cape-style seafood in a one themed restaurant and savour specialty South African meats in another.
Payne described the project as "unique".
The restaurateur admitted to a boyhood fascination with King Shaka and a long-standing interest in the differences between Zulu and British culture of that time.
"It will be a Las Vegas-themed show bar with fine dining . destined to become London's number-one nightclub," he said.
Payne is also negotiating to bring South African food and beverage suppliers on board.
Reports also say that he is in consultation with job creation enterprise Bayede, producer of a range of Zulu-inspired products ranging from fine beadwork and clothing, to accessories, bedding and even wines.
Bayede is endorsed by Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini and his wife Queen Mantfombi, who is the daughter of Sobhuza II, the late king of Swaziland.
Payne is sparing no expense. The cost of the interior décor alone, which will showcase 19th century Zulu culture, is estimated at around R24-million. Enormous intricately hand-carved wooden panels feature majestic scenes from Africa - one of them, of an elephant, is said to be 20m high, 10m wide and 2m deep.
Guests may feel a little intimidated as they approach the entrance under the gaze of a 15m bronze statue of Shaka Zulu himself, which will stand by the door.
To ensure authenticity, the developers have held extensive consultation with Zulu people, including King Zwelithini.
"We have also consulted the British Museum," said a Shaka Zulu spokesperson.
The cultural institution is famed for its vast African art galleries, which holds treasures gathered - although, some would say plundered - from all over the African continent. - www.mediaclubsouthafrica.com