There are only a few streets in suburban Colombo that make for a decent amble. One of them is Fife Road.
Fife Road is in Havelock Town, Colombo 5. After Colombo 7, this is probably one of the most desirable neighbourhoods in the city. It’s leafy, green, has nice houses and plenty of shopping and eats. The main roads, however, are big and not great for walking. Thimbirigasaya is finally getting widened, so that are should also grow, but one hopes that adjoining Fife Road will remain much as it is.
Fife Road, the part we’re talking about, goes from Thimbirigasyaya to Isipathana Mawatha. It really continues up to Park Road, but that’s all houses. In human terms, Fife Road begins between Moon River (decent Chinese) and Hazari’s (passable Arabic). On the Thimbi side, its nerve centre is the Randoli Sports Club.
Randoli Sports Club
While it might lack the Swimming Club’s impressive colonial club house or the Rowing Club’s fine wood panelling, in the crucial matter of drinking, the Randoli Sports Club is second to none.
A shot of arrack (100 ml of course, no other unit is considered) costs Rs. 150 while a bottle can be had for Rs. 1,200. Our favourites are Old Reserve (Rs. 210 a shot) and VX (Rs. 190). Lion is Rs. 190 a bottle and every evening sees a great many bottles consumed.
RSC members have a superior understanding of the value of alcohol and their capacity for liquid lubrication puts even the famed drinkers of the Havelock Sports Club and the SSC to shame.
We haven’t yet determined what sport the RSC is affiliated with but we think it’s something to do with pouring beehive (local brandy) through a funnel while a minor riot is in progress by the bar – at least we’ve seen the waiters do this fairly frequently.
A good drink of course takes you two thirds of the way to being a good club but what really lifts RSC into elite sports club territory is the very handy food menu. A good devilled pork for Rs. 400, superior fried rice and a separate Thai menu (men of the world we Randolites) – the dry chilli pork from the Thai menu, Rs. 400, is really very good.
A good drink, bites and lively conversation all tucked away in Colombo 5 – this is really the club for Colombo’s gentlemen of class and distinction.
Once you pass the Randoli (which can overflow with inebriated patrons at night), you’ll get to the Hansa Coffee Shop. In a city booming with overpriced and under-awesome coffee shops, Hansa is an exception. It’s local coffee of variable quality, but it’s cheap, interesting and honest.
Hansa Coffee Shop
This little coffee shop on Fife Road is really a breath of fresh air. More accurately, a breath heavy with the scent of freshly brewed coffee. It’s really just a hole in the wall but its lack of pretension, excellent local coffee and reasonable prices (Rs. 100-200 for any conceivable sort of coffee) are a slap in the face to Colombo’s larger, overpriced mediocrity-peddling, Starbucks imitation coffee houses.
It’s run by the people behind Hansa Coffee whose packets of ground coffee (now available at all major supermarkets) have turned Sri Lankan coffee from something of a joke to a serious business. Certainly the coffee they brew using their own coffee at the café can be world-class.
The owners are clearly passionate about coffee (they do own a coffee company) and the offerings are more variety – Thai iced coffee, coffee with condensed milk, various spiced coffees – than at other Colombo Cafes. This is also the only café in the city in which you won’t feel ashamed to order something as simple as a milk coffee (Rs. 125).
The interior, while tiny, is cosy and a pleasant enough space to while away a few hours. The good food is also worth lingering for, the fresh and tasty brownies are Rs. 125 and you can order toasted sandwiches to line your stomachs.
Fundamentally it’s a chilled out space with good local coffee at a reasonable price and its probably the only such place in the city so Yamu give it two thumbs up.
Note: While we do love the Hansa concept it must be noted that their execution isn’t pitch-perfect. Their plain coffee for example is usually excellent but at times is much too weak. Timing seems to be a key factor, the waiter on duty in the evenings seems far more able than the one on duty in the afternoon. The mornings, when the owners seem to be there, are good too.
Opposite Randoli, the other nerve centre of Fife Road would probably be Sealord, but we’ll focus instead on Mythi’s and their black pork curry lunch special.
One of Colombo 5’s more reliable stomach lining spots is Mythi’s. Beyond Selyn at the end of Fide road, it mainly distinguishes by offering good piles of meat, in a city where religions or the show of religions dictates that some meats not be served.
At Mythi’s you can always find get a good serving of pork curry – arguably the best local meat curry. For Rs. 260 you get a generous helping of pork, a good splash of the day’s vegetable curries – dhal, beetroot, okra, breadfruit, a papadam and some sambols on a typical day. It’s a good meal for the price and by the standards of buth kades, Mythi’s is clean and well ventilated.
A worthy lunch stop if you’re in the neighbourhood and even a little beyond.
Note: The pork curry though always good is a little variable ranging from excellent to just okay.
Is that all of Fife Road? No, of course not. There’s Selyn’s selling handlooms. There’s Hotel Janaki (more upscale bar) and their coffee shop (with WiFi). Tasty’s is a classic for short eats and iced coffee. There’s also some new shops at the Thimbirigasaya corner and the whole area looks set to boom with widening road.
For now and hopefully after, Fife Road is a small, walkable road with character. If you’re in the Havelock Town, check it out.