Colombo Courtyard’s Scarlet Room Chilled-out fine dining

Saturday, 7 June 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Driving along Duplication Road towards Bambalapitiya will take you past Colombo Courtyard, one of Colombo’s newest boutique hotels. Consisting of 33 beautifully appointed rooms, the hotel boasts a quaint little fine-dining restaurant called the Scarlet Room. Charming and chilled out in its ambience, private with its little tables for two that line the windows offering a view of the passing cars on Duplication, and most importantly minus the noise usually associated with Colombo’s traffic, the Scarlet Room is one of those places I would say is ideal for a quiet little intimate rendezvous. Designed using tones of scarlet as its name suggests, the restaurant has a somewhat hushed ambience given its vibrant décor; ideal for private conversations. The smooth retro soul music playing in the background adds to its character as a chilled out dining establishment hidden beneath its guise as a fine dining restaurant. The restaurant possesses a well stocked and temperature controlled wine cellar with a range of Australian, South African, Chilean, Italian, Spanish and French reds and whites. My choice for the evening was a fruity Australian Sandalford 2010 Merlot with subtle hints of plum. With the Australian Tenderloin Steak having caught my eye as my main course, I felt it the ideal accompaniment. It’s a good sign when piping hot bread rolls are placed at my table. It sets the tone for the rest of the meal and what I could expect; a focus on fresh produce and attention to detail, as CEO Nishan Moonesinghe revealed earlier. The service was gracious, to say the least. The restaurant’s unassuming and quite knowledgeable service staff quickly took my order and departed after commending me on my choice of wine. Another aspect that did make me feel comfortable enough, as I mentioned earlier about it being the ideal place for a private meeting, was the freedom to have a spirited conversation without the usual staff lurking around. This doesn’t mean however that they are not attentive and ready to please. With the restaurant’s menu I was hard pressed to choose just one and I would have loved to have tried out more than one, but then again there is a fine line between loving your food and all-out gluttony, and I for one know my limitations. However, all was not lost as luckily for me I wasn’t alone this time around and I knew that this is the best thing about having a dining companion; they usually don’t mind me sneaking a taste of whatever they decide on as well.     Starters and soups The Scarlet Room has an interesting choice of starters, with a focus on catering to all palates and preferences. From among the many meat, fish, chicken and vegetarian options, for me is a meal is never complete without a little bit of salmon. Hence it was only natural for me to opt for the Rotole Salmone Affumicato Con Formaggio Fuso E Polpa Di Gamberi E Sedano, or in much simpler terms – cold rolls of smoked salmon with a filling of Philadelphia cream cheese mousse and chives with a julienne of fresh vegetables. You can’t really go wrong with a smoked salmon starter and this one was exceptional. The chives presented themselves as a good counterbalance to the saltiness of the cheese and salmon with its slight tartness. The portion came with three servings and hence was just enough for the two of us. Now, there’s nothing more pleasing to my eye than the sight of bacon, and hence my choice of soup – the Crema Di Zucca E Pancetta (pumpkin soup with cream and crispy strips of bacon) was nothing short of ‘just nice’. Perfectly pureed, minus any chunks and with a very generous helping of bacon, the subtle sweet flavour was just the right combination to set me up for the rest of my meal. My dining companion opted for the simply decadent Crema D’Asparagi E Salmone Fresco (asparagus soup with fresh salmon chunks), which once again turned out to be a winning combination. One thing I did notice, which I must mention, was that it was evident up to now that the Scarlet Room’s Chef Manindu believes in turning out dishes that are full in flavour and balanced well enough to make it a wholly enjoyable meal. Generous with his main ingredients and subtle with his seasonings, I knew then that this was the point in my meal where I was going to really start enjoying myself.       Mains The Scarlet Room mains offer something for anyone’s palate. From meat and fish to a choice of vegetarian options as well, it is unlikely to disappoint you with its choice. After a good build up for my appetite so far and having looked carefully through the other choices, I was dead set on something that can really tell you a lot of a chef’s capabilities; which is why I decided on the Grilled Beef Tenderloin – an American ‘Grade A’ tenderloin steak, grilled medium rare just my how I like it and served with buttered vegetables, Italian potatoes and a rich pepper sauce. My companion in the meantime, decided on the Tortellini Di Pollo Con Sugo Di Spinaci E Pomodorini (chicken tortellini with spinach and cherry tomato sauce). My medium rare tenderloin on arrival looked fresh off the grill with its juices still locked and awaiting my first bite. Now a medium rare steak should ideally slightly firm but yielding to my touch and this one looked good enough but there’s nothing like making that first cut through just the right amount of char and seeing that slightly rosy and juicy centre to know if it’s the medium rare that you ordered or not. This one had the right amount of char, was firm, juicy and rosy as required – a decent steak. If at all I had to say something critical about it, it would be that it could have been tad less salty. However, I had no issues finishing it off and of course having a taste of my companion’s tortellini which was just as good as it should have been.     Conclusion All in all, the Colombo Courtyard and the Scarlet Room offer a lot to take in. From the hotel’s quirky decor resplendent with Prageeth Manohansa’s exotic steel installations dotting the public areas, the restaurant’s cosy but rich décor and a menu that ranges across the board from Italian to Asian fusion and a dessert menu consisting of individual works of edible art by Chef Jean Pierre of Le Palace fame, it is a place you should try out at least twice. Just one visit will not do. There is a lot of depth to the place and I definitely plan on going back. – Pix by Daminda Harsha Perera