It’s not everyday you get invited to be the first to sample something new in London. In fact, it’s not everyday that there is something new in London (hasn’t it all been done before?). Well, until meat cocktails, that is. When the good folks over at Shaka Zulu in Camden invited Hg2 for an *exclusive preview* of their new venture, The Meat Bar, how could we say no? We had to sample the admittedly rather strange-sounding concoctions and report back to all of our good readers.
Shaka Zulu is one of those places that probably shouldn’t exist. Taking up a massive (and I do mean massive) dual-level spot underground right next door to Camden Lock, an escalator heralds you down into a dark, cavernous space filled with carved wooden ceilings, walls, pillars…pretty much everything. Giant round booths are decked out in traditional geometric South African prints that proffer some clues as to the menu here: zebra, springbok, ostrich and buffalo. It’s all about the (supposedly ethically sourced) meat.
Enter the Meat Bar. This brand-new venture plays on the restaurant’s heavy reputation for carnivorous offerings with a series of three meat-flavoured cocktails. Taking up residence in the far end of the upstairs bar, at the helm of the Meat Bar is cocktail wizard Tony Safqi – a man who looks almost as good as his cocktails taste (ladies, listen up!). Tony’s cooked up three cocktails, each using premium spirits that he has “re-distilled” himself in house…with meat. (Don’t ask me to explain that part, the spirits were already doing their work by the time we got to that!).
First up was the Bloody Bacon. This spicy spin on a traditional Bloody Mary uses a bacon-infused (I use the term “infused” lightly here, because Tony explained it isn’t really infused, but re-distilled) vodka from the Chase Distillery, which he then smokes himself and combines with typical ingredients like celery and tomato juice, along with stranger bits like basil, port and paprika. The result is a tongue-tingling tomato affair garnished with crispy streaky bacon and, yes, cheese. Fans of traditional Bloody Marys are sure to love this, as well as just about anyone with a raging hangover (Hello! The bacon is IN the drink!)
Next, the Wheeling Salmon. Essentially, a salmon martini. Same house-smoked vodka as above, only this time infused with salmon, shaken and poured into a tumbler glass over a ball of ice (literally). Expectedly, this salmony cocktail is garnished with a bit of dill and lemon, which freshens the fishy bits up a bit and makes it actually taste, well, like a martini! Luckily, the Wheeling Salmon is served with some mini-starters – stuffed sweet peppers, olives and, of course, smoked salmon – which take the martini effect down a notch or two.
Finally, we sampled the Meatequila, concocted with a similarly re-distilled tequila plus chorizo fat. It was strong. The tequila is then mixed with a nice heavy vegetable juice and balanced off with a thick, authentic balsamic vinegar and port. Sounds disgusting, tastes wonderful. Oh, and the freshly cooked chorizo garnish made for a wonderful chaser.
Overall impression? This isn’t something you’re going to be into every night, or even every week. But it’s not meant to be. This is a special affair (with a £15/cocktail pricetag to match) for a fancy night out. The upside? Your dinner’s in the glass.
The Meat Bar is set to open at the end of June 2012 at Shaka Zulu in Camden.