FLOW turns 1!

Friday, 2 September 2016 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


By Madushka Balasuriya

A year on since officially opening its doors, all-day dining restaurant FLOW, located at the Hilton Colombo Residences, has announced a 25% discount on all HSBC credit cards for dinner (buffet and a la carte) and Sunday Brunch until 31 October, as part of its one year anniversary celebrations.

If the celebration seems somewhat low-key for a restaurant that has in a year turned around the fortunes of a property that was once the ailing Union Bar & Grill (UBG), that is because a portion of its budget set aside for the anniversary celebrations has now been channelled towards charity projects.

“When we were planning our first year anniversary celebrations, we had lavish plans and a nice budget, but at that time the country had a bad situation with the floods. Our founding principle is that we reach out to our communities, and it didn’t seem ethical for us to spend millions on a party when there were about a million people who were distressed. So what we did was we channelled most of those funds into charity projects,” explained Hilton Colombo Residences Assistant Manager Public Relations Minoli Senanayake. “Our theme for the charity was 365 because we have had 365 days of success. So we had 365 food packets made by our chefs, and distributed them to underprivileged people in and around Colombo.”

On the topic of their success, Hilton Colombo Residencies General Karim Schadlou, who took up the post in December 2013, explained how just four months into his new job he realised attempts to rebuild the “totally outdated” UBG were futile.

“The idea for FLOW actually started being formulated in 2013 when we were thinking of what to do about UBG (Union Bar & Grill), which was totally outdated, dusty, dark, and had a colonial style. It was not running to our expectations anymore; we tried a lot of food promotions, but in the end we felt that it wasn’t working.” 

“My predecessor is actually the brainchild behind this, who convinced the owners to ‘knock off’ UBG and do something completely new. Credit also goes to the Hirdaramani Group which funded the new restaurant. Finally in 2014 March we started to knock down the old place.”

Schadlou acknowledges that the $ 2.6 million invested in to FLOW is “quite a substantial amount for a restaurant”, but counters that it was a choice between that or cutting costs and ending up with a less than premium product. He also concedes that the decision to increase the previously 70-seater restaurant into a 168-seat establishment was “a bit risky,” as it meant that “something different and unique” would have to be offered to attract more customers.

“We knew that if we increased it in that scale then the product we were offering would have to be something different completely different and unique, not just an ordinary restaurant. So we decided to go ahead with the multi-cuisine, open-kitchen concept, which we knew no one else had.”

The risk though seems to have paid off as, without going into too much detail, Schadlou did disclose that the “numbers had doubled” since the rebrand and launch. This he was keen to credit to the tireless efforts of the culinary team and the food and beverages services team, headed by Priyal Wijesuriya, without whom he says the restaurant would not have been able to retain its mark for authenticity and quality.

“We really wanted to touch base on Asian cuisine; we have had very good Sri Lankan food and we knew this was something that we definitely wanted to continue. We hired someone who specialises in dim sum and could focus more on the Chinese section, we hired someone who knows about Japanese cuisine, we definitely wanted to have authentic Indian food so we hired a chef directly from India.

“We wanted to have the synergy of multi-cuisine but also the chefs as well. We have an extremely dedicated team.”

However FLOW is not resting on its laurels, as going forward Schadlou teased that new cuisines may be on the cards, but was eager to stress that this would not mean that they would stray from what had proved so successful over the past year.

“We definitely want to look into the option of having other chefs as well, mainly from sister properties. This year we flew in two chefs from our sister property in Cairo because we had some substantial bookings from the Middle Eastern market in the month right after Ramadan. Middle Eastern guests love their comfort food such as mezzes and grilled platters. We flew them in for one month and again it was a success story.

“But we don’t want to repeat that too often, as we’d rather keep that as a special occasion. I can confirm though that we are planning on introducing a new type of cuisine, but we have not finalised it so I don’t want to reveal what exactly it will be.”