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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

THE SUGAR CLUB RESTAURANT (article first published : 2004-03-21)

In case you haven’t been out to Umhlanga lately, the Beverly Hills Hotel has undergone a major revamp. Gone is the rather tired, faded pretension to glory and in its place is an elegant and welcoming top class hotel decorated in what is described as “the Natal North coast plantation style”.

This theme is carried through in the new signature restaurant, The Sugar Club, which offers elegance, comfort, fine food superbly prepared, excellent but unobtrusive service and a wine list that ranges from a good bottle of wine at R50 to the top of the range item at about R2,500! You can also order wine by the glass and vegetarians are catered for as a norm rather than the exception.

Host is amiable and efficient Vlado Sipcic, formerly from Bosnia, who makes you feel at ease immediately. Between them, award-winning executive chef, Gerard van Staden, and his wife Jo anne (nee Van Eeden) have impressive CV’s and their commitment and artistry is evident in the presentation of the dishes. I took along husband Peter and two close friends, Sheina and Tony, and we were delighted as each plate reached the table.

Sheina and I opted for Steamed Bay Mussels with a light white wine and tomato basil sauce which arrived framed in attractive – and very practical - tilted bowls. Peter chose the Smoked Salmon Salad which was served in strips with Pecorino Cheese and caramelised apples on a nest of rocket. Tony’s choice, Carpaccio of Ostrich, was the pièce de resistance and could have gone on exhibition as an edible sculpture in any of the art galleries!

My Pan Fried Fillet of Ostrich, flamed with Ambushi & Sake, was imaginatively placed over the Japanese vegetable stir fry. Peter chose the line fish of the day; Sheina decided on Roast Rack of Karoo Lamb while Tony opted for Seared Cape Salmon Trout – all cleverly presented. The trout was adorned with a cleaned fish bone shaped as a spinnaker!

The Sugar Club offers a menu in three modules: two-course R89, three-course R129 and four-course R145. The same menu can be broken down into starters, salads and desserts (R35 each); Main Course (R66); Sorbet (R22) and cheese (R42). Otherwise diners can choose from the Signature dishes which range from the most expensive starter, Chabris of Goat’s Cheese (R38) to the most expensive, Shellfish Platter (R365). I understand that the Sugar Club Chocolate Extravaganza is in a class of its own! The module menu has proved to be so successful that this will continue for another couple of months when Chef Gerard will introduce different dishes.

A luxury is live music – an enjoyable, if a little over-amplified, repertoire from Peter Enslin and Derek Geldenhuys. Nice touches are huge balloon shaped long-stemmed wine glasses and chocolates served on rose petals. I didn’t like the tablecloths which look like glorified mattress ticking and seemed at odds with the rest of the décor.

The Sugar Club offers good dining – for average to mink-lined pockets! Our total bill which included a bottle of wine and several whiskies came to about R135 a head. Not bad, considering we had superb food in a beautiful setting, with live entertainment.

The Beverley Hills Hotel is situated in Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga. Booking is recommended on 031 5561 2211. – Caroline Smart




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