Archive for August, 2011

A VIEW FROM SRI LANKA, Number 71

Friday, August 19th, 2011

Greetings from Sri Lanka to readers around the world. If you have any problems reading this newsletter, go to www.roystonellis.com/blog for all issues, but not on Friday as that is when it’s password protected while Andrew uploads the next edition for distributing on Sunday.

 

Goat Milk

Another wonderful product from Sri Lanka, sterilised pure 100% Goat Milk. It is bottled by Farm Lanka whose address is Muruthalawa, which my atlas shows is near Kandy in Central Sri Lanka. The label claims that it is easily digested and high in calcium; is good for asthma and arthritis, gastritis and migraine; and is rich in vitamins and minerals. It cost me Rs 195 [£ 1 . 11 ; U S $ 1 . 77 ]  for a 500ml bottle.   ([email protected])

 

Gourmet Galle

In my guide to Sri Lanka, see below, I describe The Sun House in Galle as being “a remarkable haven of sophistication” where “food, prepared to guests’ wishes…is exquisite.” So I was thrilled to receive information that Stevie Parle, named Young Chef Of The Year by the Observer Food Monthly Magazine in 2010 was to cook dinner one evening there last week.

Parle, 26, (seen here with Geoffrey Dobbs, the owner of Sun House, and Charlie Hulse, the patriarch of Galle’s expat residents) is a much-praised chef who has his own restaurant, the Dock Kitchen in London. So even before seeing the menu, I booked because I wanted a change: a London-based chef using local ingredients (since Dobbs doesn’t allow imported meats or fish to be served in his hotels).

The cost of the meal, announced after I had booked, was Rs 3,200 ++ [ £  18 . 28; U S $  29 . 09 ] which seemed fine. Then came an email with the menu: fried lotus root, prawns and lemon; roasted small green peppers (actually they were capsicums) with labne, flatbread and greens, and melon with tomato and chilli to share as starters. Slow cooked squid with chickpeas and organic spinach was billed as the main course, followed by a dessert of up country cardamom curd cake with mango.

Although these dishes seemed much like those we sometimes prepare at home, I still wanted to go.  However, perhaps I should have taken more notice of what Parle says on the Dock Kitchen website: “We don’t spend months practising dishes before putting them on our menu. Instead we like to be spontaneous and react to what our wonderful suppliers are able to give us.”

Someone should have tried the menu before the guests did. While everything was beautifully cooked and the chickpea/squid was rich in seafood flavour, it was an unhappy combination and not main course material. How nice it would have been to have Parle dazzling us with his cooking of local venison, rabbit, quail or duck, or even up-country beef or deep-sea shark.

This dinner was the first in a six-month long event called Gourmet Galle featuring celebrity chefs and wine tastings (www.gourmetgalle.com). I’m looking forward to more of these dinners since all of us dining at Sun House that night had a wonderfully convivial evening, entertainingly hosted by the ebullient Geoffrey Dobbs. Only next time I shall wait until I see the menu before booking.

 

Bar Quest

A good bar in Sri Lanka depends on the right barman and the right setting. As I mentioned last week I am on a quest for proper bars; for me that means stools at a bar counter, memorable atmosphere, a decent variety of drinks and a barman who makes cocktails correctly every time (without any silly innovations, or paper parasols), knows his spirits, and is happy to converse with customers.

The bar photographed here may not seem a contender as a good bar since it has no display shelves, but it is precisely because the bottles are stacked informally on top of the refrigerator that it works. It’s like home but the barman knows his stuff and can strut around his small space serving and talking to everyone, there are stools to sit on and, although it can’t be seen here, a superb view of the ocean. Drinking there seems fun.

Where’s the bar? In the Tangalla Bay Hotel, a revived 1970s architectural marvel in the south of Sri Lanka, about which I’ll write more in a subsequent newsletter.

 

Novel character

In Newsletter 65 I revealed how the photograph of a hunky young man purporting to be Royston Ellis appears on Facebook.

Now someone tells me I feature as a character in a novel called “The Betrayer” by Kimberley Chambers. The author writes: “Royston Ellis was…half English and half Jamaican, he had pure white teeth, chocolate brown eyes and an extremely fit body…”

As you can see from this photo taken last Sunday (when Kirthsiri and his son on guitars and an accordionist, with Neel and a friend on drums, played during an impromptu jolly lunch session in the garden) that description of me (in yellow shirt) is obviously fiction!

 

Fact

For lots of fascinating facts (not fiction) about Sri Lanka see my Bradt Guide to the island, available in Colombo from Vijitha Yapa Bookshop in the Crescat Shopping Mall (at Rs 2,950) or through UK bookshops at £ 15 . 99 and in the USA at U S $ 23 . 99.

Sunny regards from Sri Lanka,

Royston