Rock around the wok: Robert Wong, Elvis impersonator and restaurateur, has combined his talents to provide a unique night out. Emma Cook investigates

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The Independent Culture
In 1980 Robert Wong, one of Hong Kong's Vietnamese boat people, moved to a hostel in Cumbria with his family. All he can recall about his first months in England is switching on the radio for the first time. 'It was Elvis Presley's 'Don't Be Cruel', ' he explains. 'I'd grown up with the Chinese versions but listening to the real thing was a revelation.'

A consuming obsession with the King of Rock 'n' Roll followed. Robert, now 20, and his two elder brothers, James and Michael, spent their adolescence hoarding Elvis films and records, mimicking the songs, perfecting his twitching lip and inky-black quiff.

Three years ago they started performing Elvis songs at their friend's London restaurant, 'Gracelands Palace'. With their unique blend of Chinese kitsch with cuisine, the Wong boys are gaining wider recognition. Last year they appeared on the Michael Barrymore Show.

Their latest venture, 'Elvis's Palace', opened last August in Stockport, Manchester, and is now so popular that customers are advised to book at least three weeks in advance. The restaurant is replete with tacky memorabilia and gold-framed images from rebellious teenager to bloated Vegas star.

Above the porcelain bust of a plump, 70s Elvis (female fans pay tribute by covering it in lipstick kisses), framed photographs of the Wong boys with Barrymore smile down, under the headline 'Wok 'n' Roll'.

Yet, the tabloid puns and cliches belie the brothers' devotion. 'I just want to keep his memory alive,' Michael says. Every detail is coloured by their obsession, not least the menu, with dishes called 'The Wonder of Crabmeat and Sweetcorn Soup' and 'It Ain't Nothing But a Crispy Aromatic Duck'.

The restaurant seats more than 100 and 'welcomes hen and bachelor parties'. This evening, the bachelors seem to have stayed at home, but the hens are out to party. By 11pm, the disco lights are on. Michael appears in a white-flared creation, designed by his mother and embroidered with sequins and tassels. He pouts and launches straight into 'The Wonder Of You'.

Within 20 minutes, one of the hen-parties reaches fever-pitch, its members standing on the tables and pulling up their tops. Hysteria mounts still further when one girl waves a black vibrator in the air. 'The women can get really wild,' Michael explains. He still remembers the time when a group of adoring females mobbed him, almost removing his trousers. Later, James appears, dressed as the younger 1950s version, gyrating to 'Teddy Bear'. Both hen-parties roar with approval.

Despite its amateurish moments there's a bond between us all inspired by the feeling that we are witnessing a unique event. A 100 or so of us stand on our chairs, waving our arms in the air.

The brothers end the show with 'I Just Can't Help Believing', provoking a rapturous standing ovation. 'I never used to get this reaction,' admits Elvis impersonator Timothy Whittle, 28, perched on his chair at the front. 'I'd like to say it's just sex appeal, but they've got attitude as well.'

Self-effacingly, Michael believes the adulation is not for him but the real Elvis. He is merely the medium. Has he ever imagined, just fleetingly, that he is the King? 'There's no way in the world that I or anybody could even be similar to him,' he says, horrified. 'There could only ever be one.'

Elvis's Palace, 116 London Road, Manchester SK7 4AG (061-419 9831)

(Photograph omitted)

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