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Fish first

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

Fish first

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 261

Sunday 28 June 2015.

Welcome to this week’s newsletter heralding a newly opened old restaurant.

For the cognoscenti.

Last week I was delighted to be invited to the opening of the revamped Sea Fish restaurant. I first began popping into the original Sea Fish about 30 years ago (it was founded in 1969) because it was one of the few restaurants existing in Colombo then, except for those in hotels. By chance, since it was opened before any of the clutch of five-star properties around it, it is conveniently located close to the Kingsbury, Hilton and Galadari hotels.

It’s location, actually, helped to keep it a secret, as it is tucked alongside Secretarial Halt railway station and reached through the car park of the Regal cinema. Over the years, the restaurant lost its regular clientele and became gloomy, grimy and gauche.  In the 2002 edition of my Bradt guide to Sri Lanka I stated: “Despite its gloomy décor, visitors in the know go there to enjoy the mixed seafood grill (Rs 350).” I dropped the entry from my book in subsequent editions.

Now, apart from being in the same building, the “new” Sea Fish is nothing like the old one. It’s bright, white and blue décor is clean and crisp with mirrors giving it an art deco appearance. There is a proper bar with fun cocktails, a huge, glass-walled wine cellar with a super range of wines, three private dining rooms and a booklet menu detailing 109 moderately priced dishes. I like the small print: “Prices include applicable taxes. No service charge. You may decided if they deserve a service charge.”

 

Sea Fish sensation

Sea Fish sensation

Beyond the skewers of lobster presented as cocktail snacks in a huge hollowed out lobster shell, I haven’t eaten there yet. But I note that the Mixed Grill “Ceylon Sea Fish” style, is now Rs 2,200 [£ 10.47;  $ 16.29]  while a lunch of fried rice with fish, cashew and green pea curry, mixed vegetable salad, fried egg & chutney is only Rs 550  [£ 2.61; $ 4.07]. Sea Fish with its upmarket ambience and great menu seems set to become, again, a haunt of the cognoscenti.

 

Map of the past

Ancient Dutch map

Ancient Dutch map

I was fascinated to see this etched map of islands off northern Ceylon offered on ebay at £92.50 (Rs 19,425), published in 1672 and drawn by Baldeus. While the islands are differently named today, the one that caught my eye was Hammenheil. As long-term readers of this newsletter will know there is now a hotel, run by the Sri Lanka navy, on that island which still bears its Dutch name.

Hammenheil island

Hammenheil island

 

Sun House

The Sun House, above Galle, has long attracted guests because of its care, attention and comfort, and whimsical décor that seems to be derived from a vigorous trawl through the antique shops of the world. It’s an inspired place of cachet that sleek, even boutique, hotels cannot match. So when I was invited to tea there last week, I accepted with alacrity.

Sun House garden & pool

Sun House garden & pool

The entrance is through a tiny door on Upper Dickson Road into a courtyard which leads to a huge parlour with a stunning view of the garden and swimming pool. What I thought was a water feature where a fountain of water suddenly shot into the air as I stepped into the garden, was greeted by the steward with the words, “Oh, oh, something wrong!”

He scurried away and returned a few minutes later with a maintenance man who rushed over to stem the flow from a burst water pipe. After tea, I joined the steward in Dick’s Bar (named after the former owner of the property) for a Sun House speciality, passion fruit margarita. It had a soothing sweetness after the intensity of the tea.

Sun House passionfruit margarita

Sun House passionfruit margarita

 

Card Slot

Number 14. PRUNING TEA BUSHES

(From 50 years ago. Issued by British grocers Seymour Mead & Co Ltd)

“Left to themselves, tea bushes will grow into trees 30ft high. To keep them a suitable size and shape for the women to pluck the leaves, they are pruned at intervals of one to three years all through their lives. This encourages side growth and produces a flat-topped bush, three to four feet high. Pruning also prevents the bush from “going to seed” (some, of course, are specially left to provide new seeds) and maintains it as a constant leaf-producer. Pruning is work for the men on the estate. They use a sharp curved knife.”

 

Weekly book

This week I’m suggesting a book set in Kenya that, I discovered, is appealing to a lot of readers around the world, as well as here in Sri Lanka. Published recently in the first ever edition by Kicks Books of the USA, it’s available through all the amazons, and good bookshops. It’s the rollicking tale of four women who journey from California in the 1970s to Africa in search of the F word – fulfilment.

“Do they find it?” asked a reader I met at a Colombo party the other day, who has yet to reach the book’s final chapter

“In more ways than one,” I replied.

Sweet treat

Sweet Ebony by Royston Ellis, ISBN 9781940157078

Beat regards

Royston