BY BILLY SUTER
A VISIT to Umhlanga’s historic Oyster Box, the pearl of the KwaZulu-Natal coastline and a hotel of timeless elegance, is always a special treat.
So I jumped at the chance when the invitation arrived for my partner and I to experience the hotel’s ‘Dinner and Movie’ evening, a novel entertainment option that was introduced a few years ago and did so-so, then was recently reintroduced to great success.
The Oyster Box, which was placed at No 1, this year and last, on the list of Top 25 Hotels in South Africa, at the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, offers movies up to five times daily for residents.
Screenings are in a cute, elegant, intimate, 24-seater cinema with Dolby surround sound and plush black-leather seats. It is to be found a few steps from the top of the hotel’s grand entrance staircase.
Twice monthly, however, the cinema is set aside for a special occasion for the public. For R450 a head one gets to choose a main meal and a pud from a set menu at the hotel’s popular, sea-facing Ocean Terrace restaurant then, after the meal, head upstairs for a movie.
When we visited recently, the film on offer was the delightful The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which only recently left the Cinema Nouveau circuit. Starring Lily James, it was a popular draw, the little cinema having to be fitted with two extra seats (plush leather armchairs) to meet demand.
It’s a lovely little cinema with the ceiling incorporating a night sky effect with tiny twinkling lights, and the cinema walls lined with classic old movie posters and framed movie stills. The cinema seats are comfy and large, with a little fold-out-tuck-away tray for your sweets and bubbly.
The ‘Dinner and Movie’ deal includes a complimentary flute of chilled bubbly on arrival at the cinema, where a friendly, suited staff member also hands you a small box of freshly-made popcorn (the popcorn machine pops away merrily on a table outside) before ushering you to your reserved seat.
A great touch is a small table at the cinema entrance on which stand four large glass jars with lids, all filled with sweets – marshmallow mice and fish in one, apricot ball candies in another, as well as chewy morsels and mints, the night we were in. One is encouraged to help oneself to the high-calorie treats. Nice.
But let’s start at the beginning. The Ocean Terrace restaurant, where visitors are encouraged to arrive by 6pm on the ‘Dinner and Movie’ night, so as to make the 8pm movie start without having to rush the meal, is a wonderful, cool, airy indoor and outdoor room facing the sea.
This is where the hotel offers its famous curry buffet and its grand English breakfasts. One can sit inside, under the slow-turning fans hanging from ceilings decorated with ornate tiles, or be closer to the verandah to drink in the views of Umhlanga’s nearby, famous, red and white lighthouse that stands not far away from the hotel’s rim-flow pool.
The set menu choices are good, offering 12 mains that the hotel’s executive chef, Kevin Joseph, rates among the most popular on the restaurant menu. Included are five vegetarian options, while there are three desserts from which to choose.
I opted for the oxtail with mash, pearl onions and red wine gravy which went down very well. My partner’s choice was a 250g fillet steak with chunky chips, Portobello mushrooms and a pile of rocket and baby tomatoes. It got a hearty thumbs-up.
I can also vouch for the butter chicken curry which I have had at this restaurant’s curry buffet before. It is served with basmati rice, a roti and sambals.
Other set-menu options include seasonal line fish or sole with veg and pea and dill rice; a chicken Caesar salad with parmesan, croutons and an anchovy dressing; and classic fish and chips with salad greens, chips, tartare sauce and lemon. Vegetarian choices include rissoto and linguini dishes.
Of the three puds on offer, I tried the yummy and prettily presented Bea’s Cheesecake with a strawberry coulis. My partner’s Amarula-scented crème brulee with raspberry sorbet was also a winner. The other option is Salted Chocolate Delice which comprises crème caramel, popcorn and honeycomb chouqettes.
The ‘Dinner and Movie’ evenings scheduled for the rest of this year are on October 26 (sold out already), November 9 and 23 and December 7 and 14.
For more information on what movies have been scheduled contact the hotel’s restaurant reservations team on (031) 514 5000. This is also the number to phone for more menu details. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Note that all bookings are to be made through quicket: http://qkt.io/JHQbn0