This last Saturday, a few friends and I decided to spend the night at Ask for Fern – yet another addition to the city's throng of concept bars. Its theme centres around the whole speakeasy, blind tiger idea, and unsurprisingly it has become a big hit amongst the urban Colombo crowd. You didn't hear this from me, of course.
The Little Flower Shop
How this whole adventure works is that you need to look for 'The Little Flower Shop' down the lane next to the Ramada. There's a gorgeous entrance, decked out to the brim in flowers and plant pots leading up to a light blue door. There you will see an older gent (always with a bowtie) who'll show you in. That's it, really.
The interior is minimally but tastefully decorated with buttoned tub-seats and large chintz sofas, so people can chill and let loose. The balcony area is a superb spot overlooking the street with iron-wrought chairs and tables for your comfort. It's a great place to have a smoke and vibe to the loud Euro-funk tunes blasting through the speakers. It's actually really dark inside, by the way- the lights are there just as an enhancement, not a necessity.
I took a liking to this place the minute I walked in, it's so beautiful and seems like the type of spot vampires go to have a drink. There are enough and more opportunities for photographs, like the bathroom for example. You'll see when you visit.
Food and Drinks
There's a separate dining area that's a lot more quiet and bare in comparison to the actual bar. We wanted to order more than just this one dish, but our experience slowly started going downhill. More on that later, for now we'll look at the eats and drinks.
The Serai Chicken (Rs. 750) is a bowl of about 7-8 chicken wings, tossed in a beautiful spice mix and glazed to high heaven. They're sticky, messy, juicy and so, soooo good. The lemongrass didn't quite come through, on account of all that sweet palm sugar syrup, but I'm really not complaining.
I got myself a Coconut Cooler to kickstart this fun night (or so we thought) and the description said it was more than just King Coconut in a glass, but alas. There was supposed to be a dash of yuzu (Chinese Pomelo) but all I got was a heavy dash of ice cube. It cost Rs. 400 and its only redeeming quality was the fact that I can't say no to thambili. The Murder on the Shanghai Express is an interesting one. It'll cost you a cool Rs. 1,300 and comes nestled in a novelty Chinese takeout container.
This one had plenty of subtle punch packed in it because it comes infused with kickers like ginger and star anise in Chinese black tea. What ties this whole thing together is the lemon, mint and gin addition. It all sounds delicious, but really all I tasted was a bland base with a whisper of ginger. Why? I don't know. As a classy kid, I used to poke a hole in achcharu bags and suck the leftover juice out. Nothing pleased me more than the chilli, salt and pickled fruit flavoured ecstasy I had the joy of experiencing. I was expecting the same with Fern's Boozy Achcharu (Rs. 1,000) but although it wasn't the same old taste, it came through.
Pineapple plays the starring role here, with a few notes of passion fruit as well. Ceylonese Arrack is infused into the whole drink giving you a nice little tingle and alcohol-y aftertaste. *Hic*
Whatever positive influence Ask for Fern had over us was overshadowed by their awful service. Our waiter hated us. We could see it in his eyes. We were four, appropriately dressed Sri Lankan humans with a reservation no less, so I don't know what the cause was for all this drama. At one point we saw the waitstaff throwing some serious side-eye. It got so bad that we had to ask the manager if there was a problem.
But that's not the worst part. They've got two bouncers outside who eyed us up and down – highly inappropriately and refused to let one of the guys in. Why? Because they weren't dressed in a suit. That's right, you're supposed to be James Bond to get in – not a patron of a Sri Lankan bar, God no. At one point they started yelling, using condescending language and went so far as to yell 'get out.'
I'm not going to rant here, but this is unacceptable. I'd give their service a full zero. This is probably just one of those off-days but for a place that markets itself so well, something as important as service can't afford to be subpar.
I'm considering going here again because I love the ambience, but the service really put a damper on our night. Here's hoping they fix things up a bit, so we don't get yelled at for dressing nice and behaving well.