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Garden of Secrets

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Garden of Secrets

ROYSTON REPORTS, Number 229

Tropical Topics, Sunday 9 November 2014.

Welcome to readers around the world to this week’s newsletter featuring a new restaurant and an old garden.

 

Fish delivery

In the last newsletter I mentioned my encounter with a mobile bakery on a motorbike; this week I was visited by a mobile fishmonger making the first call of his new business. The custom here is for customers on the opening day of a business to buy something but actually pay more than the requested price for the item, to encourage the business to prosper.

First day fish delivery

First day fish delivery

That’s why I bought eight kilos of tuna fish and five kilos of a fish known colloquially as “Lena-para.”  The day’s price of freshly caught tuna (on the left of the photo) was Rs220 [£ 1.04; US$ 1.69].

 

Dishes of the week

 

Eatalian egg plant pie

Eatalian egg plant pie

This marvellous presentation is called Tortino di Melanzane su crema al curry or Eggplant pie served with celery and turnip cream. It was my choice of starter for the delectable meal I had at the newly opened Eatalian Restaurant. The main dish called Anatra con fruitti di bosco en spinaci was not available due to the lack of wild berries so I had it without a dressing: tender duck breast on freshly prepared mixed vegetables.

Eatalian duck breast

Eatalian duck breast

Obviously Eatalian serves Italian dishes but this restaurant, an offshoot of restaurants run by a Sri Lankan Italian in London, Genoa, Milan and Moscow, does not serve beef, veal, pork, lamb or chicken; only duck, seafood or vegetarian dishes. And there’s no alcohol but diners can bring their own, without corkage being charged!

Eatalian restaurant deck by the beach

Eatalian restaurant deck by the beach

It’s trendsetting contemporary in style with a black, white and grey colour scheme, concrete plinths, wrought iron lamps, and dining on the open-sided veranda, in the garden or on the deck cunningly positioned above the beach. The chef and his small team can be seen (and sometimes heard when something goes wrong) in the glass walled kitchen.

Eatalian lounge

Eatalian lounge

There is a smart corner lounge with photographs of Sophia Loren representing “La Dolce Vita” and an atmosphere of being somewhere really exclusive but refreshingly relaxing. That means you wonder why other people haven’t found the place yet and the waiter doesn’t hover (in fact service could be smarter to match the top notch food).

But Eatalian had only been open a week when I lunched there, so it’s an achievement  that it functions at all. Prices, for that standard of superb cuisine are remarkable: starters at Rs800 [£ 3.80; $ 6.15]; seafood pastas at Rs1,500 [ £ 7.14; $ 11.53  ]; mains at Rs2,000 [£ 9.52; $ 15.38]. Malindu Perera is the genial general manager; the address is 700b Galle Road (next to Whispering Palms Hotel); tel: 077 531 4126.

 

Garden of Secrets

The Henarathagoda Botanical Garden, 30km from Colombo, originated as a garden for the trial planting in secret of rubber seeds in the 19th Century. The aim was to try to raise rubber trees so that a rubber industry could be developed in colonies under British influence.

Rubber seedlings had earlier been smuggled out from Para, Brazil, by the British explorer, Sir Henry Alexander Wickham, and planted at Kew Gardens in London. Ceylon was chosen as a place to try to raise rubber plants after an earlier attempt in India had failed.

Under the guise of general garden experiments, 1,919 rubber seedlings from Kew were planted and nurtured carefully. The trees blossomed in 1881 becoming the first rubber trees grown in Asia and yielding enough seeds to start rubber plantations not only throughout the island but also in Malaysia, South India and Burma. Only the roots of the first rubber tree remain in the Garden.

Canoodling couple

Canoodling couple

Tourists seldom visit the Garden; instead it is a popular haunt of young lovers who canoodle on benches in the shade of venerable trees. It’s a pleasant park for a stroll (although motor vehicles are allowed) to peep into the Orchid House and the Herbarium. There’s also a cute Japanese Garden where plants are miniatures and low hedges have been trimmed to resemble chairs, and even a temple lamp.

8 Japanese Garden

The Henarathagoda Botanical Garden is at Asgiriya, Gampaha. It is open daily from 8.30am to 5pm, admission Rs1,100 (£ 5.24; $ 8.46) for foreigners, Rs50 for locals and Rs150 for a vehicle.

 

Computer Bug

Bugged?

Bugged?

This thing crawled out of my laptop a couple of mornings ago. About half a centimetre long and a pretty lime green in colour, it looked as startled as I did before scuttling along the edge of the screen top and flying away. Does anyone know what it was? Or is it something that came with my new Apple?

 

Remembering War

It’s late notice but if you are in Colombo and seeing this in time, you may want to pop along at 4pm on Sunday 9 November to the National Film Corporation in Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7, to catch parts 3, 4 & 5 of Apocalypse World War One. This film, which is in English, is being shown with the support of the French Embassy and the Alliance Francaise de Kotte.

 

This week’s book

A rollicking read

A rollicking read

I’m plugging one of my novels this week: Sweet Ebony, a tale of love and disaster in Kenya in the 1970s as four women go on a safari holiday with a difference. It’s available as a paperback or kindle through all the amazons.

 

Beat regards

Royston