Spoiled for choice

Saturday, 2 October 2010 00:21 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

1854 combines the best of old and new at the business lunch 

 By Cheranka Mendis

How would you like to dine in regal style? To wrap yourself in the dark reds and maroons,

with wooden floors to tread on, large mirrors, dim lights to hide the blush of your cheeks and delicious cuisine outlaid before you, spoiling you for choice and filling you with sweet contentment.

 I never thought this was possible until I found myself holding my breath at the entrance of the aptly named ‘1864,’ the exotic fine dining restaurant at the ‘grand old lady’ of Sri Lanka- the Galle Face Hotel. Named for the year the hotel was first established, 1864 combines the best of two worlds- the old and the new.

 The ancient brick walls that corners the restaurant still stands firm 146 years later. Large windows misty with salt water overlooks the majestic sea with low lying sofas covered by pillars gives you comfortable seating to enjoy a quiet smoke or a give way to poetic license. Draped in red hues, with the most comfortable looking sofas, dimly lit lamps and floating candles is the bar lounge which is hosted right at the entrance of the restaurant. Diners are invited to sip on a pre-dinner drink, exotic cocktail or GFH special range of coffee.

 Entering the dining area it is easy to know how and why the restaurant has not just influenced but provided a competitive edge to the local fine dining arena. One entire wall of the restaurant is taken up by a giant wood carving embodying traditional local motifs. The tables finely laid have a square shaped water hole in the middle where floating candles flicker and dance amidst rose petals. The atmosphere which adds romance, elegance and epicurean delights in one swift motion relaxes the diner and makes him/her forger the worries of reality.

 It is no wonder then that, the business lunch at the restaurant has gained steady repute among the cooperate sector, bankers and diplomats as one of the prime spots to hold their luncheon meetings while unwinding and enjoying a scrumptious meal. The three course meal followed by mouth watering desserts gives the diner something not too heavy but filling at the end of the lunch.

 “We offer a whole gourmet of dining predominately continental cuisines as a fusion Asian blend,” Assistant Food and Beverage Manager Fazlin Ahamed told the Weekend FT. “We offer four to five varieties of salads, two soups, five main dishes to chose from and desserts. It’s a quick fine dining fir lunch in a cozy atmosphere.” In order to save the precious time of the busy businessmen the soups, salads and desserts are laid out on buffet style.

 The main menu which is really the icing of the cake consists of five tasty varieties. You could savour the turf grill- a combination of chicken, lamb chops, beef kebab, brockwurst sausages and grilled bacon with char grilled peppers and sauté tender spinach with baked jacket potatoes- yes, it sounds absolutely delicious and its divine when you devour the plate: that was my choice and I absolutely loved it.

 And for those who like sea food, do try on the surf grill with garlic butter. It is a selection of grilled Negambo prawns- all freshly made, cuttlefish, king fish steak, fried crab and seafood kebab, bouquetiere of glazed vegetables accompanied by a timbale of braised long grain- perfect yet again. Then there is the diced chicken with cashew nuts and red chilly which is a dish of tender chicken breast diced and wok fried with aromatic sauce and cashew nuts; pasta with spinach- Italian pasta sautéed with fresh garlic, tender spinach buds, button mushrooms and spicy laksa sauce. The last choice for a main dish lies in paneer tikka masala where homemade cheese diced and tossed with fine Indian masala sauce: a vegetarian delight which the Indians, we hear, absolutely devour.

 If the main dishes take the place of the icing of the cake, the cherry on top most certainly goes to the fascinating wine cellar. A spiral staircase few steps down from the entrance itself will lead you to this impressive cellar that houses more than 125 labels from 11 countries- in total there are 1500 bottles to chose from. With a price range that goes from Rs. 2000 to one lakh the wine bottles arranged horizontally gives way to thoughts of being inside those old French wine cellars- not that I’ve been to one- but from all what I have seen and heard this definitely fills the box. There are old world wines from France and Italy to new world wines of Australia and California.   

 “The collection includes the world famous ‘Chateau Margaux’ wine,” Ahamed said. “The wine cellar is impressive not only because of the ambiance but the fact that the cellar opens out into the lawn, which looks out into the ocean.” Guests can opt to fine dining under the stars too, we were told.

 The restaurant on total can house 45 guests. 1864 also offers a private dining area for 10 persons separately. Open from 12 noon to 2.30 pm for lunch and 7.30 pm to 10.30 pm for dinner, 1864 is one of Colombo’s tucked away secrets for not just the business crowd but for young lovers and family gatherings as well. Since demand for the place is running high, we urge you to make prior reservations on 2541010 ext 1864 to avoid last minute disappointment.

Pix by Dinuka Liyanawatte