& Co. (The Steuart).

&Co is a new pub/restaurant just behind Dutch Hospital. The place is
spacious and a great atmosphere and the food is quite good and we generally
recommend checking it out… in a few days. They don’t have their liquor
license yet so still a bit lacking on the pub side.

The Location

The Steuart is a hotel housed in a beautiful
old colonial building just between Dutch Hospital and Chatham Street. It
actually has a balcony that opens onto Janadipathi Mw (across from the Central
Bank), but the main entrance seems to be on Hospital Lane.

&Co is their pub/restaurant and it’s on the ground floor. It’s a big,
handsome space, built on the old, solid bones of a venerable building. There
are brick walls, hardwood floors, hardwood beams – touches you don’t find in
completely new buildings.

The space itself is big, seating for 100 people at a pinch we’d estimate,
and there’s a nice central bar. You can see it in green, at right in the photo
below. But I guess everything is green. As you can guess, the place is Scottish
themed.

We like the ambience. It’s big, warm and yet doesn’t feel empty. It’s a good
pub, and they’re not faking it. This actually is an old building and there is
classic character seeping out of the walls.

The Food

We were quite surprised at the quality and value of the food. Above is the
BBQ Ribs (Rs. 1,600). For that amount you get a good hunk of ribs. We split
this among two and I still couldn’t finish my end. Tasty ribs also, meaty, a
nice sweet BBQ sauce. Even the cole slaw was a bit different and nice (purple
cabbage). If I was having a pint with friends this would make me very happy,
and it’s a fair price in this town.

The fish and chips was honestly cheap at Rs. 795. This is a good hunk of
white fish, perfectly cooked and lightly breaded. Squeeze a bit of lemon, dip
it in the tartar sauce and you’re good to go. This is the best of British
(sorry, Scottish) pub food and we enjoyed it. They also have a range of steak
pies and other comfort grub on the menu, most of it below Rs. 1,000. Good
value.

I’d also like to draw attention to the fries, they were fat and delicious.
They tasted fresh-made, not store bought. A lot of times you can tell the
quality of place by the attention they pay to the sides, condiments, etc. Here
everything was on point, the fries, the slaw, the ketchup.

They also have Sri Lankan comfort food on the menu, but we’d recommend
sticking to the pub fare. We tried the pork lamprais (Rs. 495) and – though
they get points for having pork – the meat was dry, the rice needed to be
cooked in stock more and the whole thing lacked the dance and balance of a good
lamprais. Seeni sambol and blachan seemed to be mixed together and overall
there was too much rice. A good lamprais is small and balanced and this just
wasn’t.

We also tried a Baked Alaska (Rs. 350), which wasn’t great. The meringue was
browned but not especially hot, so you didn’t get the contrast with the cold
ice cream inside. It also had a lot of sugar which wasn’t quite dissolved, so
it ended up way too sweet. I don’t know why I keep ordering Baked Alaska. I had
a good one once, years ago, but not since. It’s like my dog, he sees a cat up a
tree once and then he always looks up the same tree.

Beyond that, however, we can recommend the food. The seem to do hearty pub
fare (like Cheers)
quite well, and once they serve beer and spirits we think
it’ll be a lively place. The prices, also, are good value for money.

The Service

Early days, but the service we had was
excellent. Everyone is smartly dressed, they knew the menu, were pro-active and
also generally fun and nice. Water was refilled without us noticing, they
brought finger bowls without asking (ribs can get messy), etc. The Manager also
came over to see how we were doing. Little things, but important. Since it’s a
hotel (and run by a national chain, Citrus) they have a depth of talent and it
shows.

We have yet to see how they’ll cope with
being busy, but they seem to have enough people to scale.

Conclusion

Once they get their liquor license, we think this place will do well. It’s
spacious, in a great area and the food is good. Most importantly, it’s not that
expensive. You can eat quite happily here for less than Rs. 1,000 and have some
treats for below Rs. 2,000.

The area behind Dutch Hospital never quite took off, but we think this is a
winning concept. Colombo doesn’t have many pubs, and &Co is one that comes with
history built in.

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