Archive for September, 2015

Showcasing Sri Lanka fish , Ceylon Tea and tourism in the Russian market

article_imageEmbassy of Sri Lanka in the Russian Federation organized three major events during the period ofSeptember 14 – 18 2015. Russia, one of the largest markets in the world has now become an important destination for Sri Lankan exports, especially due to current ban imposed by the European Union on the Russian Federation for agricultural products including fish, milk products and meat products.

It is also vital to note that the current ban on the Sri Lankan fish exports to the European Union too has become a factor for the Sri Lanka fish industry to divert its current exports to the Russian Federation to compensate the loss that the fish exporters are facing due to the closure of the EU market for their products. Having identified the current market potentials and economic background of the Russian Federation and the CIS countries Sri Lanka embassy initiated its first step in cultivating Sri Lanka’s potentials by exhibiting the impending exports in the Russian exhibitions and forums. Under the guidance of newly appointed Ambassador Dr. Saman Weerasinghe the embassy of Sri Lanka in Moscow organized three major state sector participations at two important exhibitions during the period of September.

The events were namely, the exhibition “World Food 2015” where the international food manufacturers and companies showcasing their products in the Russian federation and “Leisure 2015”, where national tourism agencies, airlines, international tour operators and tour agents showcasing their tourism, hotelier services to the Russian and international clienteles. These events were participated by the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau and Sri Lanka Tea Board annually.

The significance of the exhibition “World Food”in 2015, was, as it was the first time in the history that Sri Lanka participation with a larger number of exporters in food sector other than tea in one trade show. The total number of companies participated was 18 and this included 5 major fish manufacturing companies and 6 other food product companies. The number of tea companies was 5. The national agency that coordinates the event in Sri Lanka was the Department of Commerce of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the Export Development Board.

Majority of the participation on other product sectors was represented by fish industry. Upon the registering of 19 major Sri Lankan fish exporters in the federal service of veterinary and phytosanitorysurveillance, in November 2014 enabling Sri Lankan companies to export into the Russian federation, the fish exporters showed enthusiasm in participating at the event as it was very timely to explore this massive Russian market .

The fish manufacturers participated in the event were Global Sea Foods, Lihini Sea Food, Jay Sea Fish processing, Tropic Frozen and Tess Agro. Roshan Fernando, the president of sea food association also had represented the industry by exhibiting fish products at the event.

Other than fish, the Sri Lankan market leaders such as Munchee, CBL Natural products,Link Natural, Ruhunu Foods, Lucky Lanka Milk Products and Hero Nature products too took part in this important event.

Though the market for Ceylon Tea is not very favorable during the current retro, still the name Ceylon Tea maintains its flagship in the Russian market. However an emergence of a segment for low end product is visible at the moment in the Russian market. The Russian Federation was the Sri Lanka’s number one market for tea for several decades and continuing the position with its new marketing efforts. The annual participation the Sri Lanka Tea Board continues this year with 4 major tea exporters under Sri Lanka Tea Board Pavilion. Other than these Tea Board participation there were 5 other individual companies participating in the event. The participation of the tea sector was organized by the tea section of the embassy of Sri Lanka. Premium Lanka, Unitrade, Sunshine Tea, Ceylon Tenny tea participated under the Sri Lanka Tea Board pavilion while Stassen exports, imperial teas, Dasatha Import and Exports participated on their own .

The other major event Sri Lanka participated in was the Leisure; Travel and Tourism Fair in Moscow. There 13 companies participated in the event namely; Aitken Spence Travels, Concord Exotic Voyages , Taj Hotels, Jetwing Travels, Cinnamon Hotels Management, Intravels Holidays, Delux Holidays, Delux Vacation, Green Holiday Center, Tangarine Tours, Super Corals Hikkaduwa, Ceylon Roots , and Serendib leisure.This is also an annual event that Sri Lanka participates regularly for improving and maintaining the client base.

Having identified the importance of the fish exports to Russia, embassy of Sri Lanka organized a sea food cooking demonstration and tasting session at the embassy. The event was conducted by La Maree , a well-known premium Russian sea food restaurant chain and the event was participated by 45 leading fish importers of the Russian Federation. Sri Lankan exporting companies were introduced to the invited more than 40 sea food importers, restaurant chain owners while Sri Lankan exporters were given an opportunity to present their company and products for tasting and display. The product display and the tasting session was a great informative exercise for the importers to get the first hand experience on the products companies and quality. Much important sea food buyers such as Fess Impex, ITOCHU corporation, Le Pathazhe, Art Logistic Trading, Alligator, Gless, and Metro Cash and Carry were among the participants

The event was a success and the Sri Lankan exporters stated that they were highly satisfied with the contacts that they built up during the trade show and the sea food demonstration and expected this to be the turning point in Sri Lanka’s fish exports to the Russian market.


KALPITIYA ­­­The Sea, The Islands and the Lagoon

Sinharaja Tammita-Delgoda
A splash of movement. A leaping thud. A flying twist of silver, gleaming in the sun. The sea was full of shapes in shades of grey, skimming through the deep. There were dolphins everywhere, gliding in from every side. In formations of three, four and five, some rode before the boat and, disappearing beneath, they cut across the bows. Like torpedoes streaking through the sea, their fins rose and fell in curving arcs. Shooting through the waves at gathering speed, they could have outpaced the boat with ease, but chose to stay. They seemed to have no fear, coming within touching distance, barely a hand’s breadth away.

They somersaulted through the air, vaulting backwards, forward and upside down. They spun from left to right and right to left. Holding their audience enthralled, they executed double twists, triple twists, belly flops, flips and barrel rolls, all at breathless speed. Their repertoire was endless. Some were artistes, some were acrobats and others were athletes.

There were at least a hundred. Each group followed in the other’s path. Sleek and slender with long, thin snouts, they were five to six feet long. These were the Spinner Dolphins of Kalpitiya. Kalpitiya, once ‘Calpettyn’, takes its name from the Dutch fort built there in 1667. The fort sits at the tip of a peninsula on the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. A long arm of land stretching out into the sea, the Kalpitiya peninsula is 30 miles long and four to five miles wide. Running almost parallel to the mainland, its bony fingertips end in a series of long, thin islands. With the Indian Ocean on one side and the Puttalam Lagoon – the largest in Sri Lanka – on the other, the Kalpitiya peninsula is a place where two ecosystems meet: a changing landscape of flat coastal plains, salt pans, thick mangrove swamps, eerie salt marshes, vast sand dunes and shallow expanses of water. Governed by the winds and the tides, it is a unique environment with its own distinctive plants, grasses, birds, fish, reptiles and mammals.

Known for their love of tropical waters, Spinners are usually found in the warmer parts of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean. Although by habit they are ocean-going, in Sri Lanka they are also seen within reach of the coast. The first recorded sighting is thought to have been in 1872 and they have been seen off the island’s shores for more than

Immensely social animals, Spinners usually travel in large numbers and, off Kalpitiya, hundreds have been spotted at a time. Sometimes in the early morning they can be seen feeding just beneath the surface, spread out across the horizon, as far as the eye can see. Their preferred food is the Yellow-fin Tuna and to a lesser extent, Skipjack. Although Spinners are seen throughout the year, it is during the tuna fishing season, from September to October, that the greatest number gather. Clearly, these species are still found in numbers off the coasts of Kalpitiya. Overfishing, and especially the catching of young fish, will change all this. Soon, perhaps, there could come a time when the dolphins will no longer come.

The lapping calm sharpens speeding silhouettes. Tints of green and blue accentuate the streamlined forms. Through the water they appear pencil slim. The colours light up the gleaming grey; the deeper the hue, the greater the contrast. The ocean has never been so still, the colours never so clear. Accompanying the boat is a small group of Bottlenose Dolphins. From above, they seem to be swimming in slow motion.

Along with the Spinners, Bottlenose Dolphins are also a common sight off the peninsula. More sedate and stately than the Spinner, the Bottlenose is not usually given to acrobatics. Between eight to ten feet long, it is larger, heavier and longer than the Spinner. Males, however, can sometimes grow as much as 12 feet. More than 75 years ago, the English naturalist W.W.A. Philips had reported the presence of Bottlenose Dolphins in his classic guide, Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon (1935). Seen right from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, the Bottlenose Dolphin is particularly abundant in the seas off Sri Lanka. Found in the deep sea and in coastal waters, they are regularly sighted off the island’s western and southern coasts. Unlike the Spinner, however, they gather in much smaller numbers. The pods seen near the coast rarely consist of more than 12 animals, while those which inhabit the deeper seas rarely number more than 25.

Friendly and curious by nature, Bottlenose Dolphins also like to swim with boats. Riding the bows, they cut in and out from either side. Like many other dolphins, once they become accustomed to the boat and its occupants, they are quite happy to travel along. The force of the boat makes it easier for the dolphins, reducing the drag. The bow wave creates a low pressure area which acts as a slipstream, and they take turns to ride in its wake, peeling off and swapping positions. The coastal species have a limited range, along overlapping sections of the coast, from which they rarely stray. The waters of the Kalpitiya peninsula appear to be their home. Although naturalists have known of their existence for so long, it is only in the last few years that the dolphins have captured the public imagination. One of the most captivating sights of Kalpitiya, they are also its biggest attraction. It is an attraction which could easily disappear.

Dolphins communicate with each other through a series of high-pitched clicks, screeches and whistles. Their language is sound and they are highly vulnerable to its tones. Some of it can be heard by humans, but most of it cannot. Under water, where it travels much faster, sound is so much louder than on land. Here, it is a dangerous weapon. Many boats will also mean many engines and more sound, and each engine will pour out more and more oil. All across the island’s southern waters, hordes of boats are putting out to see the whales. The same fate lies in store for the dolphins of Kalpitiya. As tourism develops, the seas will become a highway for speeding boats, every one competing for the closest view.

Where they once felt safe and free, the dolphins will feel hunted and pursued. The waters, which were once their home, will be home no longer. It is a characteristic of living things that when threatened, they can always disappear. When they do, part of Sri Lanka’s living heritage will vanish forever.


Sri Lanka Tourism enters China’s growing religious tourism business

article_imageZhao Xian Zhang- Chairman International Tour Management Association of the World Religious Charity Foundation with Sri Lanka Tourism Chairman Dr Rohantha Athukorala, Director Marketing-Madubani Perera, Market Head China-Chintaka Liyanarachchi and Assustant Director Randima Udunuwarage with Key Destination Marketing Companies (DMC’s) in Sri Lanka.

Good destination management include development of new products whilst focusing on market development work on the strong foundation branding if a country wishes to attract the top dollar potential tourists said Sri Lanka Tourist Promotions Bureau Chairman Dr. Rohantha Athukorala at the meeting with Zhao XianZhang- Chairman International Tour Management Association of the World Religious Charity Foundation at the Sri Lanka Tourist Board.

The latest research reveal that short stays give peace of mind and better tolerance toward the harsh realities and difficulties of our fast-paced lives which is essentially why the religious tourism spike has happened globally said The communique from the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotions Bureau. Specific to China, almost 85 percent of the people in China hold some religious belief or practice some kind of religion is what the Chinese spiritual life survey conducted in 2012 by the Beijing-based Horizon Research Consultancy Group has revealed.

The survey also revealed that the growth of Buddhism is extraordinary, with about 18 percent of the 7,021 respondents in the survey claiming to be believers which means that more than 200 million people in the country would believe in Buddhism which gives us a view of the market opportunity said Athukorala. Together with the key Destination Marketing Companies(DMC’s) we will develop a new line of tourism which will include a series of above the line and below the line marketing activity he said.

A point to note is that the number was around 100 million some years back as estimated by the Buddhist Association of China which tells us the changing dynamics of China said Athukorala that has crossed the 119,705 as at end July 2015 with a registered growth of 77.6% into Sri Lanka. The country is targeting 225,000 visitors for the year 2015 he said.



This year´s World Tourism Day highlights the global potential of tourism for socioeconomic development. “With more than one billion international tourists now traveling the world each year, tourism has become a powerful and transformative force that is making a genuine difference in the lives of millions of people” says UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

With the tourism sector booming, tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka are expected to increase by another 1.6 folds by 2016 to reach 2.5 million arrivals. While the South Asian region recorded a 7 per cent growth in 2014, Sri Lanka recorded a growth of 20 per cent in tourist arrivals.

The growth rates for India and Maldives, two important destinations in the region, were 11 and 7 per cent respectively, according to the UNWTO 2015 Tourism Highlights. The tourist arrival growth rates in Sri Lanka are prospective among the regional competitors and indicates that millions of tourist arrivals can create ‘millions’ of economic opportunities for the country.


Tourism can bring in a number of economic opportunities, which can primarily or secondarily contribute t owards t he development of a country. The real impacts of tourism on national output are hard to measure, given the complexity. Direct economic opportunities come in the form of tourist spending. An array of indirect opportunities is generated through purchase of goods and services from other sectors of the economy.

In addition, wage income in the industry generates induced impacts on the overall economy. In order to increase the economic contribution of tourism, it is important to pay attention on indirect and induced impacts in addition to direct economic benefits.

In Sri Lanka, the revenue generated through tourism has been increasing noticeably following the revival of the tourism industry after the end of the war in 2009. However, the country’s earnings from tourism are comparatively low when compared to regional competitors.

According to t he Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA), the receipt per day per tourist was USD 160.8 in 2014. Attention should be paid on increasing per head earnings, rather than solely focusing on the numerical targets for arrivals. In this regard, a long term strategy should be in place in relation to the market strategy and product formulation.

In addition to foreign exchange earnings, t ourism generated direct and indirect employment of 129,790 and 170,100, respectively in 2014 according SLTDA statistics. The employment in the industry accounts for 3.4 per cent of country’s labour force in 2013. Around 80.4 percent of t he direct employment is in hotels and restaurants. Other primary direct employment channels include: travel agents and tour operators (6.2 per cent), airlines (5.2 per cent), and guides (3.8 per cent). Of the total direct employment by occupation, managerial and scientific professionals account for 13.8 percent, while technical, clerical and supervisory employment form 51.2 percent. The rest involve employment that is of a manual and operative nature.

As highlighted in a recent ILO report and pointed out by tourism experts, Sri Lanka’s tourism industry is characterized by significant skill gaps. A majority of those who join the sector either possess relatively low quality of technical & vocational education or are trainees. It is estimated that only 10 percent of the total employed in the industry have undergone both formal or informal technical & vocational education and trainings. Significant soft skill improvements are required in terms of English language, leadership, commitment, positive work habits, creative & critical thinking etc.

Changes in the profiles of tourists at global and regional level can also bring in numerous opportunities. China has now become one of the the top ten source tourist markets of Sri Lanka, according to the 2013 arrival statistics of SLTDA. China contributes to 4.3 per cent of total tourist arrivals to Sri Lanka. Rising disposable income, currency appreciation and improved air connectivity have led to a significant increase in Chinese outbound travel. Accordingly, spending by Chinese travelers has increased by 27 per cent in 2013 when compared to 2012 and many destinations in Asia and Pacific are benefiting from this development. In order to reap the benefits from the growing outbound tourists from China source, Sri Lanka should strengthen its strategies to attract Chinese tourists.

Things to ponder

The macro level statistics do not often reveal the true picture of tourism’s role in promoting pro-poor development. It is acknowledged that mass tourism does not generate major gains to local communities and is characterized with high rates of outflows – termed as leakages. In contrast, small scale community-based forms of tourism, where community participation is considered an integral element, can be more beneficial for local communities.

Sri Lanka, a destination rich with natural and cultural endowments, possesses significant potential for development of ecotourism, agrotourism, community tourism, etc. Such forms of tourism use local resources, whereby the level of leakages is comparatively low. While a spectrum of tourism products are required from small scale to mass scale, Sri Lanka should pay more attention to developing the small scale tourism – which can perhaps be niche markets – providing ample opportunities for local communities. In addition, a number of opportunities can be created through effective promotion of business tourism and Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition (MICE) tourism in Sri Lanka.

The sustainability of the tourism industry is strongly linked with environmental and socio-cultural aspects of a destination. Tourism can be used as a tool to raise awareness and contribute towards preserving the natural and cultural assets. For instance, ecotourism can be used as a sustainable tool in natural forest management, as highlighted in an IPS study.

The tourism developments that are taking place in the identified regions also call for careful consideration. Infrastructure developments in regard to tourism should not only consider t he direct economic gains. Rather, special attention should be paid to socio-economic and environmental implications of the respective areas. Given the opportunities stemming from tourism, there have been transformations from existing livelihoods t o t ourism related livelihoods.

“People here find tourism a more lucrative business than engaging in fisheries” says a villager from Kandakuliya, Kudawa – a village under transformation from fisheries to tourism in the Kalpitiya tourism area. “However, there are significant threats for mangroves due t o ongoing t ourism developments”, he points out. Assurance of environmental and social sustainability should be an integral part of tourism developments, from the initial stages, for a healthy growth of the industry.

Sri Lanka possesses a strong positive outlook if the tourism developments are undertaken in a careful manner. There is much to be done in harnessing Sri Lanka’s full range of opportunities in tourism, and the country should not miss or postpone making use of these opportunities.

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Foreigners flock to Sigiriya to see sun rise

Tourists viewing the sun-rise

The Central Cultural Fund allowed tourists to view the sun-rise from the top of Sigiriya rock from September 27 – 28 to celebrate the World Tourists Day.

They were allowed to climb the rock fortress at 5.00 a.m. and view the sun-rise. Many foreigners climbed the rock to get a glimpse of the spectacle while a few locals too were sighted on top of the rock waiting to see the rising sun. All facilities needed by tourists were provided by the authorities.

Meanwhile, some tourists were seen viewing the sun-rise standing on their head.

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A gentle, polite introduction to nature

The Yala Adventure is the first hotel I have stayed in that, instead of in- room television, offers a private butterfly garden, toddy rope walking and abseiling as entertainment. Not only that, its most expensive rooms are canvas tents with grand teak beds.

Open dining hallThis extraordinary hotel is set in the tamed wilderness beside the Yoda Wewa ( lake) not far from the borders of the Yala National Park. Unlike other hotels in the area, it does not only offer accommodation to tourists who want to stay overnight before a dawn jeep safari around Yala. It offers a complete “wild” experience, based on its slogan “explore the possibilities” and is fun for spending a few nights close to nature.

I demurred at the idea of sleeping in a tent. For me hotel accommodation should be a spacious, well designed room of reasonable luxury, with a comfortable bed and a good bathroom, even in the wilderness. To my surprise The Yala Adventure was that and more. It was with trepidation that I followed the steward to my tent, passing what I was told was the common toilet, built like a small keep with battlements.

I needn’t have worried; my tent (one of three on the property) had its own bathroom and toilet with a thoughtfully planned vanity counter and a super rain shower with granite stone floor. Towels were soft and fluffy; there were organic toiletries. The bedroom was a surprise. The entrance had to be unzipped to enter a 200 square feet cocoon with patterned fabric ceiling canopy and walls.

It was cold, because there was an independent air-conditioning unit by the side of the bed. I think I disappointed the creator of this modern tent as I immediately switched off the a/c unit and rolled up one of the window flaps to let the breeze flow through. Each window flap had mosquito netting and the tent also had a verandah enclosed with a wall of mosquito netting.

The bed was king- size, hand built of Sri Lankan teak by a village carpenter. It was solid, raised two feet from the ground, and had an eightinch mattress and luxury cotton sheets. There was a canvas luggage stand and two canvas chairs, as well as power points for charging phones, cameras and lap tops. Amazingly, in this wooded wilderness, there was WiFi connectivity ( free of charge).

My doubts about staying in a tent dissolved when I spent a dreamless night to be awoken by the soft patter of rain drops on the canvas roof while being serenaded by a joyful dawn chorus of birds. Had I stayed in one of the hotel’s conventional rooms (there are two deluxe rooms and two other bedrooms with pairs of single beds in the water tower structure) I wouldn’t have felt part of nature.

The concept of The Yala Adventure is to introduce guests gently and politely to natural Sri Lanka. The reception and restaurant is a 60 feet long open- sided hall made of timber posts and beams with an intricately thatched roof. It overlooks the organic garden, where guests are invited to pick their own fruit and vegetables for dinner. Breakfast and dinner consist of country- style curries with gardengrown vegetables and fish fresh from the lake. Any items that have to be purchased come from local farmers and fishermen. ( Westernstyle dishes are also available but guests prefer to try the authentic Sri Lanka cuisine.)

While guests can dash off on a jeep safari, they are also encouraged to discover other wildlife. There are nature walks with 165 species of birds listed in the hotel’s booklet as frequenting the vicinity. A Butterfly Garden has been especially created through the introduction of the plants that butterflies thrive on. As I entered the garden I glimpsed a flash of electric blue as a peacock scurried into the undergrowth with a startled mewl. Butterflies danced around my head.

Guests more active, and younger, than me can abseil down the hotel’s water tower, try to walk along the toddy tapper’s tightrope cable slung between two trees, learn archery, target shoot with an air rifle, go mountain bicycling, kayaking on the lake, help fishermen haul in their catch, and even camp in mobile tents on an island in the lake. There’s also a trek to a village to drink herbal tea with jaggery in a typical clay- walled and palmthatched hut.

The Yala Adventure Hotel is placed conveniently for exploring several nearby wildlife sanctuaries and historical temples. The management’s philosophy is not only to give guests a great experience off the beaten track, but also to assist the local farming community with better market and employment opportunities. It seems a welcome trend for tourism diversification, and I was content with my stay in a tent!

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Flavourful street in the heart of the city

In this week’s Eat Street, Adilah Ismail finds an array of restaurants that cater to the working crowd that throngs Chatham Street in Colombo Fort

The Dutch Hospital Shopping Precinct’s spatial equation has seen minor changes since its inception but for the most part, the main food stalwarts remain the same.This week on Eat Street we go past the Dutch Hospital Complex, to explore Chatham Street’s food offerings. There’s been a visible effort to ensure that Chatham Street maintains its old-world personality while maintaining its footing in a changing city. The 158-year-old Clock Tower at the end of Chatham Street, now presides over the multiple restaurants and eateries which have mushroomed quietly between the street’s other commercial

Old favourite: The Pagoda Tea Rooms TheTh RedR d Snapper:S Focus on seafood. Pix by Adilah Ismailestablishments.

Chatham Street’s food offerings span varying budgets and cater to the working crowds of Central Colombo. There’s a Pizza Hut which offers delivery if you’re in the mood for a quick pizza and the City Talk Pastry Shop which has the standard range of affordable short eats. Also just behind Chatham Street, towards the Dutch Hospital, is Kinnaree, a restaurant specializing in Thai cuisine.

Throw a stone in Colombo and you’re bound to hit a Pilawoos and Chatham Street’s Fort Pilawoos Hotel (no relation to the other Pillawoos dotted around Colombo) is a popular pit stop for locals and tourists alike.A smiling cashier informs us that the Fort Pilawoos Hotel has been around in the area for 12 years but has been housed in its current location for two years now. Serving nofrills, affordable fare, the popular items here are the eatery’s chicken biriyani and chicken and cheese kotthu. If you’d like something sweet, ask them for their chocolate roti.

There are two buildings on Chatham Street which deserve special mention for their visual elegance. The first is the beautifully restored Central Point Building which plays host to the Central Bank Currency Museum. The second is the De Mel Building in which the Pagoda Tea Rooms is housed. Established in 1884, the 131-year-old Pagoda Tea Rooms is one of Colombo’s oldest eateries. The Tea Room retains vestiges of its old-fashioned grandeur after its refurbishment, and quietly holds its own amidst the bustling street. The Tea Room’s history is augmented by its claim to fame as having been one of the locations where Duran Duran filmed its video for ‘Hungry like the wolf ’, complete with snake charmer and monkey in the Tea Room -seemingly essential ingredients for an exotic video. There are no snake charmers or monkeys but the Tea Room can offer you lamprais, rice and curry, a collection of sweets (the cream buns and the pineapple gateaux are nostalgic favourites among its customers) and savoury short eats instead. A heads-up – it gets hectic during lunch hours, the evenings are far quieter and preferable.

The Colombo Café is one of the newer e entrants to Chatham Street and serves wraps, burgers and sandwiches. Manager, Gihan Liyanage, stresses that the restaurant focuses on h healthy meals with no artificial ingredients a and that its Sri Lankan lunch buffet (priced at Rs. 300) is seen as a value option among its repeat customers. The café is a small, intimate area with an open kitchen (head on upstairs if the aroma of food is overpowering) and friendly staff and features paintings of Chatham Street. The café s upper seating area can be booked for parties and events for small groups of people.

The Dilmah t-Lounge on Chatham Street is a familiar fixture and has been instrumental in forging a path for tea in a sea of coffee shops. Dilmah informs the Sunday Times that plans are in the pipeline to refit the Chatham Street outlet and to open two more tea lounges in central Colombo. The t-Lounge’s interiors are swathed in warm colour tones and designed to mirror a living room. It is one of the few tea lounges in Colombo which synthesizes a thoughtfully planned menu with tasteful, personal ambience and good service – there’s even a ‘tea radio’ on air inspired by tea (which can be accessed online at

and a tea library on hand. Cheerful hand painted tea pots and place mats with quotes about tea adorn the tables. It’s raining buckets outside when we visit, and our place mat informs us that “tea is drunk to forget the din of the world”. We’re inclined to agree. In a corner of the lounge, is what looks like a teddy bears’ picnic with stuffed teddy bears solemnly occupying a sofa. A card propped on the bears’ table informs us that Harold and Henrietta are in fact ‘tea bears’, urging customers to take a selfie with them. The tea lounge offers multiple varieties of tea and sweet and savoury tea pairings; tea infused mocktails, shakes and ice cream and has also modernized old favourites such as the pol pani pancake.

We asked the tea experts for their advice on initiating a person into tea for the first time. “I would suggest our Sencha steamed green tea with lemongrass and peppermint if a mild and gentle tea would be your preference. Whilst for someone who enjoys strong hot beverages, I would suggest our Galle district OP1 or natural Ceylon ginger tea, explains Dilhan Fernando, Director at Dilmah (his personal preference during the day is Dilmah’s Prince of Kandy tea, taken hot with their almond butter cake). Much depends on the weather and if hot and humid outside, I may even suggest a blueberry and pomegranate iced tea which is made from freshly brewed Ceylon tea with pomegranate and blueberry combined with fresh apple and lime juice.

Nestled next to Dilmah, is the Red Snapper which was formerly a short-lived Mexican restaurant. In its new avatar, the restaurant focuses on sea food and its interiors earnestly strive to emphasise this claim. A fish shaped lamp greets guests while assorted sea creatures are illuminated on the walls and a lone oruwa, placed at the end of the restaurant contrasts sharply with the restaurant’s chandelier. The menu is seafood centric with the occasional deviation into other meats.

Shamrock, the pub adjoining the restaurant, professes to be an Irish themed pub and runs a number of promotions and themed nights. Apart from the range of drinks on offer, its menu offers pub fare such as nachos, bangers and mash, Irish lamb stew and also, kotthu.

For Gopiharan Perinpam who works around the area, Chatham Street has become an instinctive dining option, because of its proximity to his office and variety of food choices. He explains that Pagoda Tea Rooms is the go-to place for office cakes whenever the occasion rises and that Pilawoos does the trick for a quick parata and beef for breakfast. He adds that Dilmah t-Lounge is the most frequented because of its cakes and savoury waffles and & Co Pub and Kitchen is fast becoming his new favourite in the area. (“Love their ambiance and extensive menu ranging from lamprais to burgers”)

Strictly speaking, & Co Pub and Kitchen isn’t on Chatham Street but we’re throwing it into the fray because it’s one of the latest food spots to open in Colombo and is worth a mention. A part of the Business Boutique hotel, The Steuart by Citrus, the Scottish themed pub remains open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers a Sunday roast on the weekends. With a live band on Friday and a DJ every Saturday, casual atmosphere and generous food portions, Manager Ranjith Liyanage asserts that the pub has gained popularity through word of mouth largely because of its flavourful food. Crowd favourites on the menu, Ranjith says, are the pub’s chicken and leek pie, fish and chips, the loaded burger and the barbequed ribs.

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