Archive for November, 2010


Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Sunday 28 November.

Greetings from Sri Lanka.


Samit in Calcutta and my webmonster Andrew both suggest that I should write more about food and places to eat in Sri Lanka. I’m happy to do that, especially as I spent two years in the 1990s reviewing local restaurants in my column “High Life” in The Observer (Sri Lanka).

Since then, there has been no independent column about restaurants here, only public relations handouts and girly articles with sentences like “With the bar rattling up a juicy drink, service that adds a personal touch to one’s requests and a live band that plays daily, as time passes unnoticed, one can only hope for a choice that precedes moments like this.”

I swear I didn’t make that up. It’s taken from a restaurant review in November’s issue of Explore Sri Lanka. As is: “Whether one chooses [list of mocktails] the experience is assured to be one, like no other.”

Or how about: “While the restaurant deck reaches out to touch the surrounding Beira Lake and starlit skies, the ambience inside is ordained with fervent neon lights to get one’s mood attuned to tastes that awaken the appetite.”

The traditional Sri Lankan breakfast is my favourite meal as it provides a gutsy kick start to the day. “One should try the beef curry,” a pseudo writer might say, “it wakes up one’s taste buds.”

Beef curry at 7.30am certainly packs punch. It’s usually eaten with egg hoppers (a kind of crepe with an egg in the centre), plain hoppers or country-baked bread.

The best beef curry is to be had in the hill country, perhaps because establishments there have access to contented, hill country cattle, or because hill country cooks know how best to tenderise local beef. In Newsletter Number 11 I wrote about the breakfast at Mount Field Cottages, breathtaking in taste as well as view.

The most sophisticated version (subtle spicy flavours) I’ve had (and wholeheartedly recommend) was at The Heritance Tea Factory Hotel, near Nuwara Eliya, where the chef plunged his thermometer in the beef curry to demonstrate how hot it was.

I also enjoy a creamy dhal (lentil) curry with seeni sambol (a sweet, spicy onion relish) and bread when I’m at home. More on breakfast places next week.

Christmas & Alzheimers

In Sri Lanka, Christmas is a feast enjoyed by all: with the religious emphasis on Christmas Eve, while Christmas Day is commemorated as a holiday for everyone. In looking for “tropical” Christmas cards (instead of robins and snow covered letterboxes) I found some delightful cards by the celebrated Sri Lankan artist, Senaka Senanayake, published for the Lanka Alzheimer’s Foundation ([email protected]).

This is an excuse for me to reproduce here a cartoon I created with the American cartoonist, Richard Kolkman, featuring Sri Lanka’s most famous expat resident, the late Sir Arthur C Clarke.

The cartoon shows Sir Arthur beginning to spell a word with the letters HAL (geddit?) than changing the word to the correct spelling of Alzheimers with the caption “As long as I can remember how to spell it, I haven’t got it.”

Reef Villa

Congratulations to Bernadette & Brendan, regular readers of this newsletter, for the full page photograph of their elegantly sumptuous Reef Villa at Wadduwa and the encouraging report in Newsweek (29 November). For my newspaper review of Reef Villa, see:

It’s a shame that an advertisement for HSBC in the same issue of Newsweek refers to “Columbo, Sri Lanka.”  The “world’s largest bank” seems to be wasting money on its advertising agency.


With the rather silly title of Fab, Howard Sounes reveals traces of his previous calling (Sunday Mirror journalist) in his recently published “indelicate” (Wikipedia) biography of Sir Paul McCartney, by describing me as “an obscure British poet.”

On the other hand, Philip Norman, a well established expert on things Beatle, describes me in his 2008 biography of John Lennon as “the celebrated young poet, Royston Ellis…other than John Betjeman, he was the only British poet regularly seen on prime time television.”

For my version of my encounter with John and Paul (at least I was there!), see the last chapter of the 2010 edition of The Big Beat Scene.

Beat regards,