Archive for February, 2012


Friday, February 24th, 2012

TROPICAL TOPICS, Sunday 26 February 2012.

Sunny greetings from Sri Lanka (and from the Maldives where I was last week.)

Sri Lanka’s Malibu

That’s what they are calling Narikela pure coconut liquor made in Sri Lanka and given the Sanskrit word for coconut. It comes in an attractive blue, 750ml bottle, costing in the region of Rs900 (£ 5.00; US$ 7.50). The label claims “every drop in this bottle is distilled from naturally fermented Coconut Toddy which has a history that dates back over 2,600 years.”

It adds: “Narikela is produced using the latest technology designed by French experts to bring out the distinctive flavour of coconut to satisfy the connoisseur.” It has a strength of 23% v/v and is recommended to be consumed straight or with a mix of Cola, Soda, Pineapple, Lime or Apple Juice.

It’s a bit sweet but certainly has the essence of moonlight in the tropics.


Bar Stools

I was told about Narikela by the barman of The Bandarawela Hotel, that hostelry built in 1892 for enervated planters on a rest cure, and still soldiering on as a traditional, colonial style hotel packed with charm, comfortable sanatorium style beds with brass knobs, and food — like mixed grill platter, scotch egg, and shepherd’s pie – cooked for trenchermen.

The lounge bar has inherited these bar stools from the old public bar, which is now closed but still houses a pool table. The stools each have that broad seat beloved by broad-seated planters more used to riding to the hotel’s pub on horse back than arriving by 4WD.

The intelligent and knowledgeable barman presides over an impressive collection of malt whiskies and is a dab hand with cocktails, some of which feature Narikela. With its 50-year-old fridge, an old wireless and other colonial knickknacks, the Bandarawela Hotel and its bar is a welcome anachronism in 21st century Sri Lanka.

I celebrated my 50th birthday there and when I went back 21 years later to the day, nothing had changed — so the years seemed to roll away.

Airline seating

In Newsletter 97, I reviewed some airline food served at the Sri Lankan Airlines restaurant in Colombo; last week I sampled it on board when I flew by SriLankan to Maldives. My gluten free meal (a nice peppery chicken steak) was delicious. So was the seating!

I was lucky that an A330 Airbus usually used on long haul routes was put on the short sector so I got to try out the new business class seating, now available on five of the airline’s Airbuses. It is super, with layout retained as AC/DG/HK in three rows.

Each seat is a newly designed version in two parts: the seat and a built in pouffe opposite as the footrest. The seat reclines at the push of a button and transforms into a comfortable, almost flat bed. The pillow cases are an attractive maroon and green weave, instead of the usual hospital bleached white, and there is an extra cushion. The seat and television controls are high-tech and neat, not cumbersome gadgets. There are no dividing panels that make a business class cabin look so claustrophobic; instead the cabin has a reassuring, comfortable look to it.

I wish I could say the same about the refurbished business class cabins on SriLankan’s A320 aircraft. They are not an improvement because, even though they have leather instead of fabric upholstery, they have very little recline. The space previously used by reclining seat backs has been utilised to cram five rows into the cabin, making it appear crowded. OK, perhaps, for a short flight but even for a four hour flight by A320, such as I have to make to Singapore next week, could be uncomfortable.



No, it’s not a wholesome designer-label mineral water; Vittaveli is the name of the newest resort opened in the Maldives and managed by the modern, upmarket Jumeirah Hotels of Dubai. So I expected it to be rich in sophistication but I was unprepared for its smooth rustic luxury.

Every one of the 39 over water lagoon villas has its own swimming pool, while beach villas each have an L-shaped pool doubling as a serene water feature.

The villas are incredibly spacious with a bedroom flowing to a dressing room, to a living room, and enough deck space for a galleon. The clever modern touches (Apple Media system for music and surfing the internet on the flat screen television; a floor that illuminated itself when I stood on it) are complemented by chunky wooden furniture resembling works of art.

Visually the resort is stunning because of the artistic use of bamboo as elevated fencing, creating amusing landscapes among the tangled vegetation. Intriguing infrastructure alone, however, does not make a resort fun for a holiday but Vittaveli also excels with its positive, caring staff. They seemed so happy to be working there, and their pleasure and enthusiasm communicated itself easily to guests.

It’s a resort for families (with a family pool and clubs for kids and teenagers) that somehow has all the seclusion that romantic couples, statesmen, company chairmen or incognito celebrities cherish. The food? Let’s start with the five exotic cheeses platter with gluten-free bread, and smoked salmon with champagne, for breakfast…



Sri Lanka Guide Book

I’m told by the manager of the Vijitha Yapa Bookshop at the popular Crescat Shopping Mall in Colombo that this book sells out so quickly in Sri Lanka, it might be advisable to buy a copy before visiting. It’s available through or direct from

Beat regards

Royston Ellis