AYU (Mövenpick Hotel Colombo).

Ah Mövenpick. We used to have the ice cream, and now we have the hotel. The shiny new building splices Colombo 3's skyline like a sparkly 24 story katana. Glitz, glass, and glam views ensconce this whirl of restaurants, bars, and other decadent things (Spa Ceylon, sexy rooftop bar, infinity pool). We checked out the only spot that's somewhat ready for an investigative first look, their all-day dining restaurant on the 4th Floor – AYU. 

The Premise

Multiple cuisines, lots of space, lots of choice. The restaurant claims it's all day dining, but they have fixed timings for breakfast lunch and dinner (hover over the OPEN/CLOSED text below the title), so watch out for that inconsistency. The lunch buffet costs Rs. 2250++ (almost Rs. 2890 with taxes and service charge), but the a la carte menu features mains for as low as Rs. 900++.

The set up is semi-casual, upscale dining. It feels like a posh Whole Foods or gourmet market with lots of stations, prettily arranged produce, high-end grills and an electric Italian deli slicer reminiscent of chic delicatessens. They've got a range of superb imported produce as well, including French cheeses, Australian beef, and Italian cured meats. 

The Premises

The space is meant to be conducive to business meetings – seating arrangements range in size and privacy, so call ahead and make your reservations if you've got a posse with you. The restaurant itself is large, with extensive indoor couches and tables, and a pretty outdoor section that overlooks the bustling Colpetty junction. It's not particularly cosy for a date, but then again buffets rarely are.

The Food

The variety here is undoubtedly staggering. There's a full imported section of cured meats and cheeses, complete with candied dried fruit, olives, and crackers to accompany them with.

There's also an extensive salad bar with straightforward tossed salads, along with a variety of other prepared items like wraps and Middle Eastern dishes like grilled halloumi, baba ganoush, and hummus.

A seafood section also features a selection of maki and other rolled sushi, grilled calamari, prawns, and clams.

The main section plays host to a rather meat-heavy Continental section, with an array of beef pork loin, barbecue chicken, pasta, and more. There's also a live action station that was grilling lovely fresh lamb kofta when we visited.

On the other side, there's a full South Asian section with a mélange of Indian and Sri Lankan food.

The dessert island is a full area within itself, boasting in-house baked goods, pastries, puddings, and chocolates. 

The preparation of the food was overall quite good, with the local and Indian fare faithfully executed, along with genuinely superb desserts. There were a few shortcomings though, which took AYU to an AIYO. For example, both the beef striploin and pork loin were very chewy, tough, and gristly. The halloumi was rubbery and hard too, and the clams surprisingly tough and fishy (indicative of bad/stale produce). Apart from these drawbacks, the rest of the food was well prepared.

We can't stress enough how these desserts pleased us, from the decadent rich chocolate cake and crème brûlée, to the blueberry-topped semolina pudding and cinnamon spiced chocolates.

The Staff

We found the staff to be unerringly friendly and committed. We were attended to at all times, and even approached by a couple of staff members who explained certain items or made recommendations. They also kept us updated about when the new restaurants would open, what's in store, and what's yet to come.

What's Yet To Come

Their walk-in wine and cheese cellar is meant to be one of the main draws of the restaurant, but it's not ready yet. Neither is their wine, spirits, and cocktail list as they literally just got their liquor licence over the weekend. They did have a token bottle of house red and white available, but at Rs. 1600++ for a glass of screw-top low range Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, we were not impressed at all, and didn't order it. A mug of Lion Lager goes for about Rs. 600 inclusive of taxes.

The rooftop bar Vista is open in principle, but we dropped by and there were still some workers, construction, and confusion at play. The views are genuinely probably the best in Colombo, but you'll have to put up with a roughshod temporary menu for the time being. They claim they do have "international cocktails" after 5 PM, but didn't have a list to show me. The new French restaurant, Brasserie, will probably be opening in time for Valentine's Day, and their Robata Grill doesn't have an opening date yet. For a full list, check out their site.

Overall

There's a bit to be improved, but given the enthusiasm of the staff, we're sure the kinks will be ironed out post-haste. For now, given the variety, view, and novelty value, AYU is worth their price point. For now, don't go there for the wine.

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