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Gourmet on the go at Cafe Kai


Comments / {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}} Views / Saturday, 18 November 2017 00:10


By Madushka Balasuriya 

It may be one of the most instantly recognisable names in hospitality, but the Hilton is not resting on its laurels. Following the success of Graze Kitchen and the redone LAB lounge and bar, the latest area to get a face-lift is the in-house bakery, formerly known as Fine Things. 

While Fine Things was mainly a go-to spot for cakes and a handful of French pastries, the newly rechristened Cafe Kai, open since 21 September, is a different beast entirely. Shifted from its quaint corner to the right of the lobby, the new entry now takes up a roughly 1,200 square foot space at the left of the main entrance. Large glass panel windows bring in copious amounts of natural light and it’s not uncommon to see guests staring out absentmindedly, enjoying an (excellent) cup of coffee, and diving in to possibly the best value-for-money roast beef sandwich in Colombo.

The seating area, which is located around the square granite bar at the centre, comfortably seats 38 guests. Self-service is the name of the game, with all the food items displayed front and centre, while the concise drinks menu has a handful of staple coffees, flavoured lattes, and juices.

For Executive Chef Kazi Hassan, the idea is the logical progression in the Colombo Hilton’s recent self-improvement journey which places sharp focus on food and hospitality above all else.

“I’m a human being. We have that comfortable place that we always revert to. Maybe with a service and product Hilton can retain that essence. Hospitality is how we can stand out, and it’s all driven by the product and the people,” he says, when asked about how Hilton is planning to stay ahead of the competition.

With the high-end LAB just a walking distance away, Cafe Kai is certainly the more affordable street-smart sibling at the Hilton. With all prices in nett, savoury items – which include sandwiches, melts, wraps and salads – range from an extremely reasonable Rs. 488 to a manageable Rs. 888, while the French pastries, inclusive of novelty items such as the decadent donut-croissant hybrid, the ‘zonut,’ have a similar price range. The most expensive coffee meanwhile comes in at Rs. 588. 

“A lot of work went in to getting the menu right. We worked about six months to create it. As an executive chef my job is to create the concepts, but my team is excellent,” adds Chef Kazi.

When you take the quality into account, the prices fast start sounding a little too good to be true. But alas, there is no catch. It is at the end of the day quality food at prices that make you do a cartoon-esque double take. It’s that simple really. On top of which you also still have the cake section in all its resplendent glory, with the Colombo Hilton boasting one of the finest teams of bakers and chefs capable of sculpting cakes into almost any design imaginable.

This however is far from surprising, and in fact is becoming, rather extraordinarily, par for the course at Hilton. While most of the produce is sourced locally, several ingredients from the meats and dairy, to even the flour used to make the breads and pastries are imported.

“We wanted to bring international standard to the market, considering the new brands entering. People have also become more focused on quality, on carbs and proteins. We wanted to marry those components together and provide it on the go.” The name too is well thought out. ‘Kai’ has 19 different meanings, from some as straightforward as ‘food’ or ‘vegetable’, to others more abstract like ‘warrior’ or ’strong,’ but the definition that stands out for me is from Wayuu, where it means “the one who brings knowledge”. 

Cafe Kai offers healthy delicious food at incredibly affordable prices, while the options on offer vary daily as well, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a ritual haunt for those in need of a quick snack; open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily at the Colombo Hilton, with special breakfast options available from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m., with Cafe Kai the Hilton certainly knows what it’s doing.

Pix by Lasantha Kumara

 


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