Hilton Colombo Hotel
For many years, when there is cricket in Colombo, we have stayed in Colombo Fort, the epicentre of Sri Lanka society.
Sri Lanka 2022 was no different, though we moved from our usual hotel to Hilton Colombo thanks to our friends at Walkers Tours securing a rate we could not refuse.
For its location, you may well think Hilton Colombo (official name) has been there since Buddha opened for the Ceylon 2nd XI, but surprisingly only arrived in 1987. Until 2016 it remained untouched, when reception, bar, and restaurants finally received a major makeover to create their stunning lobby, and lounge bar.
With doubt surrounding our Australian Cricket Tour To Sri Lanka, the polictic and civil unrest, fuel shortages and public risks concerning many, starting our tour at Hilton Colombo was an introduction to the other side of Sri Lanka 2022; the one they don’t show on the news; the one I tried to emphasise (without sounding desperate) to those that stayed home.
Being picked up by ever-reliable, slow but safe-driving, Mr Jude and driven with a full tank to Hilton Colombo there was no sign of unrest, though it was 4am. We passed one fuel line, people minding their vehicles waiting patiently for the filling station to open, but otherwise quiet streets.
Reaching the hotel and checking-in to my very-tired room (332 rooms are now being renovated), very-tired myself, I fell instantly asleep, my last thought, 'I'm here now and nothing is going to affect this tour'.
There was talk of food shortages across the nation, which caused one of our regulars to stay home. If I needed confirmation that we'd not go hungry, breakfast in Graze Restaurant was it.
We have often stayed in fine hotels with adequate buffets, and small hotels with amazing buffets, but in 27 years this was the finest I recall. An amazing way to start a day, and tour. Not saying breakfast was downhill from Colombo, Hilton Colombo breakfast just wasn't surpassed.
Those that came for the ODI's or a few days before travelling to Hikkaduwa for the Test Series, spoke reverently about breakfast at Hilton Colombo.
Everything from Sri Lankan, to Indian, to Japanese, to Chinese, to European was there. They made spring rolls (below), steamed fish, crispy pork belly, Szechuan chicken, and Singapore noodles seem a breakfast norm. Dietary preferences aside, you wanted everything, yet there was so much that even in my 10 days there, it was impossible as every day was different.
What was also notable were the portions. There wasn't great troughs of food. There was enough to serve a flow of guests, while more fresh foods were prepared and served when quantities reduced. There was never anything to wait for except your eggs that were all cooked to order.
It wasn’t the same Chinese seafood, pork, or noodles. Never the same Indian dishes. Nor Sri Lankan. Breakfast staples were there, but everything around them changed daily. If you wanted something that wasn't there, one polite request and chefs created it for you.
Aside hot foods, the flavour of fresh fruits, juices and smoothies also changed daily. There were a dozen different pastries, pancakes and waffles, cereals with dairy & non-dairy milks, espressos, macchiatos, americanos, and Sri Lanka's finest black and herbal teas.
You wanted for nothing. It was beautiful, if breakfast can be branded so. It’s not that you don’t get this on other hotel buffets, but it was the presentation, variety, service, & quality that set Graze Restaurant apart. No sooner did you finish munching string hoppers (below) with Maldivian fish curry, than a bowl of warm water was brought to wash your hand.
And just as efficiently as that was brought to the table, after one day I had 'my usual' table reserved each day, and no sooner I sat down than black coffee with 3 shots arrived. The staff were simply always on the ball. At least for me anyway.
Speaking to chefs, they commented on my always saying good morning, and always thanking them on my way out; a habit made a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. It doesn't take much to acknowledge those working to serve you, but if that's the difference between asking for a coffee or it being served without a word spoken, then more people might be a little nicer first thing, especially to my chef brothers!!
The service wasn't just limited to my coffee either. Asking on the first day if there was seafood sushi (they only served vegetable), I had fish and prawn sushi (below) freshly rolled and delivered to my table each morning. This was a treat never extended in all my years. We had never stayed at Hilton Colombo and, as I write, won’t consider staying elsewhere in Colombo.
It is the best positioned branded hotel in Colombo. Affordabilty of Sri Lanka made it not even worth leaving the hotel lobby bar for a beer to save A$2, but we all need variety, even after breakfast.
Across the street is the Dutch Hospital Precinct where you can dine and drink at 8 restaurants, 6 pubs, and food court. The Dutch Hospital is opposite the World Trade Centre that has direct access from Hilton Colombo if you need a phone shop, Sri Lankan Airlines, post office, bank, or double-decaf cinnamon soy latte with one.
For more street-like adventurers, Hilton Colombo is 7 mins walk to Fort Railway Station, Pettah Markets, and buses to Ranasinghe Premadasa Stadium.
Each tour we learn new things, new ways to get places (including Premadasa), find new bars, restaurants, and even new old hotels, such as Hilton Colombo.
On our next Australian Cricket Tour to Sri Lanka, unless it burns down, there is little chance we won't stay at Hilton Colombo, even if it just for breakfast!