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STRUTT AT TOP OF THE ROYAL (article first published : 2000-10-10)

Durban’s five-star Royal Hotel offers several fine eating venues but nothing can beat the Top of the Royal, particularly at night with the panorama of lights spread out below. I was glad to hear from management that they are going to utilise this venue more because it offers the most splendid view of Durban you could find anywhere in the city. The side facing the harbour is all glass so there is an uninterrupted view of the yacht basin, the harbour, Salisbury Island, the Bluff and the Point.

I went along the other evening to enjoy the up-tempo all-girl group Strutt and if you haven’t caught this fine trio yet, keep a lookout for their appearances. Strutt is headed by Cindy Dickinson, formerly of Syndicate, who is ably supported by Denise Ostler and Helena Muir. Decked out in black wigs which offer a good balance for Cindy’s froth of blonde curls, Strutt is their first professional musical venture.

At around 21h00 well-known radio personality Dave Guselli (who, by-the-bye, is Cindy Dickinson’s husband) moves in to take over the sound system to encourage diners to get on the floor. Uttering the occasional wisecrack, he raises the tempo and the volume, advocates the release of energy to work off the calories and whets the audience’s appetite for the entertainment to come.

Performing to backing tracks, funky but sophisticated Strutt wear natty black suits and ultra mini’s. They belt out popular hit numbers like Movin’ on Up, How Do I Live Without You, River Deep, Mountain High and I’m Walkin’ on Sunshine. All firm friends, they work together well and their enjoyment and love of the songs they sing is evident.

A Sarie award winner for her You Make Me Feel Like a Woman which features on her hit single Love Stealer, Cindy handles the crowd with aplomb. With charm and gentle fun, she puts down the inevitable know-it-all who’s out to impress his partner – and the rest of the diners – with what he considers ravishing repartee.

My only complaint is a lack of staging and proper lighting which means that the group does not become the focal point it should be. The Royal needs to take on board an advisor in events theatrical or musical so that the top-notch entertainment it offers can be presented in a manner that befits the hotel’s five-star reputation. Much care and quality is taken with the excellent food and service, and this standard should extend to the staging of any performances offered.

Chatting to executive chef Shaun Munroe and complimenting him on the fine buffet offered at Top of the Royal, I admitted to having been completely fooled by what I thought were vienna sausages in a salad of oranges and walnuts. Turned out that my “viennas” were rolled smoked chicken! Whatever - the result was delicious.

Tickets for the evening are R125pp and apart from the carvery, hot dishes and an extensive range of fish dishes, calamari, smoked salmon and salads, I remember the piquant creamy chicken and prawn curry. For dessert lovers, there are many tantalising and delectable offerings!

Strutt have been appearing on a regular basis but as the hotel gears itself for Christmas and the inevitable functions and parties, it is advisable to check when the group performs next. The Top of the Royal is also open for Sunday lunch from 12h00 to 14h30 and the cost is R57.50pp. Well worth the price. And the view is thrown in free! Bookings through Royal Reservations on (031) 304-0331.




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