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A night at ON14


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By Madushka Balasuriya

Every Thursday for four weeks, from 2 November to 23 November, one of Sri Lanka’s hottest bands, The Slipping Chairs, is playing at OZO Colombo’s rooftop bar ON14. The move is part of their initiative to place more focus on music and entertainment. 

“You change your music, you change your audience. You change your audience and your whole game plan changes,” explains OZO Area Manager Events and Music Tim Claessen, adding that the move has already reaped heavy dividends in terms of greater foot traffic.

Claessen has been a DJ for over two decades and has seen the rise of the ‘superstar DJ’ first-hand, but he now believes bands are set to make a comeback.

“I was reading recently that in the UK the band scene is coming back again. Before, I was a DJ playing 20 minute breaks when the band was playing the whole night. Today, the DJs play the full night and maybe a band will come and do a guest spot. 

“But it’s a cycle, and now it’s going back. People want to listen to live music, because everything else is so synthesised.”

For The Slipping Chairs, ON14 is different from their usual haunts, mainly as it is their first rooftop gig. Nevertheless, founding member of the band, Dylan Manuel, feels the ‘vibe’ is definitely in sync with their music.

“It’s fun, I like it,” says Manuel of his experience so far. “It’s got a chill vibe, a very chill vibe, and you can get a nice acoustic feel to our music here as well.”

Ambience

Indeed, if you’ve ever been to ON14 – if not, put it on your bucket list, now! – then you’ll no doubt be familiar with the exquisite view that overlooks the Colombo coastline; we dropped by a little early to take in the sunset, and it’s safe to say there are not many better ways to experience one – weather permitting, of course.

The bar itself is wonderfully spaced out; even on a crowded night it seems unlikely to bring forth any bouts of claustrophobia. There is ample indoor seating, but if there was ever a reason to start a night-out early it’s to get outdoor seats on the veranda overlooking the ocean. If you’re an in-house guest the infinity pool, which is sandwiched between two outdoor seating areas and offers up the same extraordinary view, is also available for use.

Bar bites and beverages

ON14 has an extensive list of drinks and snacks, with a separate drinks menu for ‘happy hour’ – special happy hour cocktails are 50% off between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. Alongside several staples, these signature cocktails can be ordered throughout the night as well, and follow a heavy Sri Lankan theme with several served up using local liquor and ingredients.

We thoroughly enjoyed them, though the one sour note was the lack of consistency; twice our refills were distinctly different both in sweetness and appearance.

On to the bites, the first we tried was the Mixed Cheese Platter. Coming in variants of both one and two servings, it comprises blue, cheddar, and camembert cheese varieties, as well as pine, grapes, almonds, and crackers. With a Sangria by your side you can scant go wrong.

The Sri Lankan style handalla meanwhile was your typical Lankan bite – fried well, it was especially helped by the delicious homemade chilli sauce. The highlight of the night though was the Nelum Ala Baduma, or batter fried lotus root.  We’ve never even come across such a dish before, let alone tasted it, and it was quite the revelation. I assume lotus root, albeit batter fried, is a healthier option to potato – leaving health concerns aside though, it was exquisitely salted and its light, crispy nature certainly kept us going back for more. 

It was therefore a small shame that the accompanying chilli yoghurt dip was such a letdown; while on its own you could taste a subtle hit of chilli, once the lotus root chip was dipped in, it just extinguished the flavour from both items. Thankfully we had some leftover homemade chilli sauce, which went outstandingly with the chips.

Finally, we tried the most popular pizza on the menu, the Hangover. With toppings such a chicken sausage, pork bacon, egg, and mozzarella, its status was rather unsurprising. Thinly crusted, it was jam-packed full of flavour. While of course there are plenty of better pizza joints in Colombo, it’s suffice to say this will most definitely not leave you disappointed.

The rest of the menu has a collection of burgers, mains, and bites, while there are also daily evening barbecues – so something is definitely assured to tickle your fancy.

A unique experience 

On the whole, ON14 has a few problems but nothing terminal; what it does well, it exceeds at. In terms of experience, very few bars come even close. While others may offer similar panoramas, this one located on Marine Drive is quite literally the closest you’re going to get to the sea. Add top quality live music and an intangible laid back vibe, and there are truly not very many better ways to spend an evening in Colombo.

-Pix by Upul Abayasekara


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