Archive for February, 2013

Royston’s Report Number 149

Sunday, February 24th, 2013




Sunday 24 February 2013.


Welcome from Sri Lanka to this Sunday’s newsletter on tropical topics.


Sights of the South

A big surprise when driving along the south coast road from Galle is, at Koggala, to be confronted with a gleaming blue-painted Sri Lankan Air Force plane, number SCM 3101. It is parked by the sea, at the end of the runway that forms the Koggala airport, run by the SLAF.


Grounded at Koggala

Grounded at Koggala

It is in the grounds of an open-sided restaurant called Catalina, the type of flying boat that Air Commodore Birchall was piloting when he took of from Koggala and spotted planes from Japan heading for Ceylon. The alarm he gave spoilt the surprise attack and was, according to Sir Winston Churchill, “one of the most important single contributions to victory” during World War II.


Fish drying down south

Fish drying down south

Another sight of the south, as well as fishing boats bobbing at anchor in tiny coves, is fish drying in the sun. A man sat patiently in the shade beside this rack of sliced fish watching and waiting while the sun shone… and tourists stopped to take photos.


The Kingsbury Cometh

The loss of the Colombo’s first chain hotel, the Ceylon Intercontinental (which later became the Ceylon Continental) has been mitigated by the recent part-opening of The Kingsbury. This has been created from the shell of the old Interconti and, when all its floors are open and it’s functioning fully, I plan to stay there to see how it competes with its neighbouring five-star properties.

In the meantime, the ground floor bar and two restaurants have already opened. It’s all very glitzy and glamorous, adding excitement to the hotel lobby experience. (There’s even a vertical fish tank wrapped around a central column, that’s fascinating to ogle at night.)


The Kingsbury salad buffet counter

The Kingsbury salad buffet counter

I popped into the Harbour Court restaurant for a buffet lunch (at Rs2,200 nett [£ 11; US$ 17.60] and was thrilled by the layout. A long counter bristling with salads, and a separate counter with traditional lunch dishes as well as meat and fish cooked on demand.  The aptly named “DO” (Director of Operations), Dayal Fernando, and the Head of Leisure of Hayleys, the owning company, Johann Wijesinghe, showed me the facilities of the Seafood restaurant, also open for lunch and dinner, where a huge variety of fish and seafood is displayed for action-station cooking in whatever manner a guest choses.


Dayal Fernando explains, watched by Johanan Wijesinghe

Dayal Fernando explains, watched by Johanan Wijesinghe


March in Sri Lanka

Next month sees Sri Lanka in Festival Mood with festivals in Galle (including tuktuk polo) and Colombo. The Festival in Colombo is called Colombo Scope and is curated by Ashok Ferrey, the tireless promoter of Sri Lankan literature, including his own jolly good books. There are over a dozen ticketed events at Park Street Mews at Rs500 [£ 2.50; US$ 4] entrance fee per person, as well as free events, exhibitions and a street party.

These events on 23 & 24 March sound exceptionally interesting and perhaps controversial. Details on 

My Life in Robes

Two men and a woman in robes – a Christian priest, a Buddhist monk and a Muslim lady – talk about what those robes mean to them: how they serve to define their identity and how they change the way others perceive them. Moderator Jill Macdonald.

Flying on the other Wing

Minoli Ratnayake talks to Carolin Emcke, Rosanna Flamer-Caldera, Koluu and Brandon Ingram about sexual identity, and living the alternative lifestyle in modern-day Sri Lanka; and to film-maker Asoka Handagama about the portrayal of it on film.

Who Counted the Bodies?

The Commander of the Sri Lankan Army and Rajiv Wijesinghe, in conversation with war reporters Carolin Emcke and Julian West, about the problems of war reportage: Who exactly assigns the numbers in an environment where facts and figures can be massaged equally vigorously by both sides? Moderated by Savithri Rodrigo.

By Gum!

Circumstances saw me at the dawn of Valentine’s Day having breakfast at “the world’s most romantic resort” (according to the World Travel Awards as voted by travel trade professionals), Baros Maldives.  It was a breakfast to stimulate passion: a full buffet with the extras of salmon caviar, oysters, and champagne.

For me, though, the highlight was the best gluten-free bread I have ever eaten. Bread made with gluten-free flour is so often tasteless and dry. The Executive Chef of Baros Maldives, Gabriël le Roux (South African in spite of his apparent French chef’s name), told me the secret. That’s to bake the bread in a covered bread pan with the addition of Xanthan gum that helps the bread retain moisture.

Gabriël very kindly explained details of this magic ingredient. Xanthan gum is a medium to fine, off white powder. It is usually made from corn or soy. Xanthan does not dissolve in oil. He has introduced it to several preparations with stunning results: gluten-free bread (to retain moisture, the lower the viscosity of a liquid the slower it will evaporate); ice creams and sorbets (it prevents the forming of ice crystals and gives ice cream and sorbet that smooth velvet feel in the mouth); salad dressings (it helps to prevent oil separation by stabilising the emulsion.

Baros Maldives Lime restaurant

Baros Maldives Lime restaurant

Even the menu at the resort’s Lime Restaurant features Gluten-Free Olive Ciabatta stuffed with Tomato, Carrots, Cucumber and Celery Mayonnaise” and gluten-free croutons. So Baros Maldives isn’t only for a peaceful, romantic holiday in the tropics; it’s the island to stay on for innovative gourmet cuisine as well.

Back to the Beat

The Big Beat Scene is back

The Big Beat Scene is back

The zany life we rock ‘n’ roll veterans lived at the dawn of the swinging sixties is covered in the reprint of my seminal book The Big Beat Scene, available from:

Beat regards

Royston Ellis