Colombo’s first boutique hotel and also probably one of the city’s best kept secrets since they opened their doors in December 1999. Tucked away down Havelock Place in a fairly residential area this is one of my favourite spots in the city to enjoy a meal with close friends, catch up on some reading over the weekend or enjoy a cocktail after work.
I caught up with the very busy and hospitable Shamala Wijewardane who runs and owns the place to find out a little more about this gorgeous hideaway.
I inquired about how the idea came into being to run a boutique hotel in the city when it was something quite unheard of at the time. Shamala says the properties were rented and it was her sister Sunela who is an architect who suggested that they convert it into a boutique hotel. The houses were built in the 1930’s and still retain the same style and are also furnished accordingly.
The Bungalow has seven rooms of which three are suites while the other four rooms are double occupancy rooms. Some of the rooms can take an extra bed to accommodate families traveling with young children. The other facilities offered are a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, laundry service and wifi.
The cafe opened its doors to outsiders shortly after the bungalow itself opened. Shamala is responsible for the wonderful creations that come out of this kitchen. It is clear that she puts a lot of effort, care and detail into her menu and planning of the weekly specials. She finds inspiration through watching tv shows, reading cooking magazines/books and gives it her own twist. When asked what is her biggest motivation is she said that she is surrounded by family and friends who love to eat which has worked well as she loves to cook!
The specials menu which includes Starters, Mains and Desserts changes weekly. On any given day you can walk into the cafe and expect to have a vegetarian option, one or two seafood items, usually fish and prawns/calamari, a pork item, a lamb item and if you are lucky either a chicken or duck dish as well. I have been to the Bungalow several times for dinner, drinks and dessert and I have a few favourites.
The Seared Calamari and Avocado Salad (Rs. 400) is a refreshingly light and crunchy salad with an olive oil and lemon dressing. I love this salad! They are generous with the chunks of avocado and the calamari is seared to perfection, the lettuce gives it just the right amount of crunch and the dressing is light and not too greasy while the lemon gives it a nice zesty aftertaste.
I also tasted their Chilled Tomato Soup with Mustard Ice Cream and Crab Toast (Rs. 500). This was absolutely divine – the crab toast melted in my mouth while the mustard ice cream blended perfectly with the roasted tomato. I have never had such a combination before and to be perfectly honest I have never tasted a savoury ice cream and this was something special and definitely worth talking about. I give it two thumbs up and recommend it wholeheartedly – I am definitely going back for more.
The Fettuccine with Lamb and Mint Pesto (Rs. 1050) is another one of my favourites; I love pasta, pesto and lamb and this dish combines all three of those things in a wonderful dish. When I first saw it on the board I didn’t think it would work well as I’d never tried lamb and pesto but it was really delicious and the parmesan brought the dish together. Another must try if you are a lamb fan – the portion is also rather large so if you are going to order this you might want to skip the appetizer.
Pork is a firm favourite of mine and the Bungalow always has some of the best pork dishes in the city. Do try their Maple Roast Pork with Sweet Potato, Chili Butter and Greens (Rs. 1,100). Expect two large juicy pork chops cooked well and sweet potato which I have never seen served as a side in any restaurant in the country along with green beans. For the pork fan this is the dish you must have at the Bungalow and trust me you will not be disappointed – it is as good as it sounds.
If you are not into your meats as much as I am I suggest you try the Seafood Laksa (Rs. 1050) – it is a bowl of goodness; they are generous with the seafood and the tofu, the dish is well flavoured and the spices really come through. Topped with crisp fried onions this dish is only second to that of the laksa I’ve had in Singapore.
They occasionally have duck on their menu and I have been lucky enough to try their Duck and Shiitake Mushroom Risotto with Sesame Rs. (1400). It’s a very interesting dish as I have not had that combination before but it was delicious and the risotto was cooked to perfection.
Their desserts are delightful and you will definitely be back for more. They have a range of home-made ice creams and their most popular and fast moving ice cream is the Sri Lankan Arrack and Coffee Ice Cream which I have tried and go back for over and over again. Priced at Rs. 375 for a portion of two scoops it is total value for money, tasty and something out of the ordinary.
I have also tried the Salted Caramel Walnut Chocolate Tart (Rs. 525) which in my opinion was one of the most extraordinary and wonderful desserts I have had. I love caramel and the combination of a chocolate tart filled with cream and topped with salted caramel and walnuts really hit the spot – I shared this dessert with a friend as it is truly decadent but utterly divine.
The other dessert I would recommend is the Slow Baked Lemon Tart with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (Rs. 525). The lemon tart has exactly the right amount of zest to it while the vanilla ice cream cuts through the richness of the tart to give the dessert a wonderful blend. Once again this is an absolute must have and I am told that it is also another firm favourite of their regulars.
All prices mentioned here are subject to government taxes and service charge. The cafe is open for Breakfast from 7.30am to 10.30am, Lunch from 12noon to 3pm and Dinner from 7pm to 10pm.
My overall rating of the place is as follows:
Portion Size: 8/10
Value for Money: 9/10
The next time you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city without actually leaving the city you should go to The Havelock Place Bungalow and treat yourself to some delectable goodness. They are located at No. 6 and 8 Havelock Place, Colombo 05. You can also call them to make a reservation on: 0112-585191.
NB: All photographs are taken by the author; all rights reserved.