Big Fish (Marriot Weligama).

Big Fish provides a seafood fine dining experience that can probably satisfy the biggest food pedant at prices that, while not cheap, deliver value for money.

Located on the mezzanine floor of the Marriot Weligama, Big Fish is open to both guests as well as walk-in customers. Call ahead and make a reservation to make sure you get a good table. The Marriot is easily accessed, being located smack in the middle of the Weligama Bay, so the place is ideal if you’re already in the South coast and are looking for a posh night out with a date.

Food & Drinks

The restaurant serves a delectable selection of seafood. All of it sourced from local fishermen. Everything we tried was as fresh as an idealist entering Sri Lankan politics. The place opens at 7pm for business. The catch of the day is displayed in cabinets in the middle, keeping with an open kitchen concept and mimicking a fish-market type layout. A little to the right, occupying its own little space is a massive, steel, lava stone grill. If you’re feeling like it, you can grill your own fish.

A Starting Shooter (pineapple, lime and mint) and a Risotto Seafood Croquet (a crumb fried cutlet filled with seafood and risotto) were complementary appetizers. Both were really good. We were also served a selection of fresh bread with olive oil and vinegar.

The restaurant serves a large selection of drinks, cocktails and mocktails through the in-house bar. We ordered the Glory Herbal (Rs. 400) and the Watermelon Mojito (Rs. 800). The Glory Herbal was finely balanced and not too sweet, though the mojito tasted a little too strong and rummy, and the mint could have been a tad more powerful.

For starters we went with the Sautéed Clams (Rs. 2,250). They were seasoned with garlic, chopped parsley and vinegar, and generously sprinkled with caramelized onions which added a crispy texture and sweet/sour sensation that complemented the flavor of the clams really well, and balanced its slightly bitter aftertaste. I’m not usually a big fan of mussels or clams, but I found myself going to town on these little buggers.

We also tried some Fresh Oysters, very simply seasoned in mignonette sauce (very reasonable at Rs. 300 a pop). They were excellent. If you’re on a really hot date, you can have a few more to ensure a little more excitement later.

Neither of us being light eaters, the surprisingly large helping of clams didn’t slow us down. For mains we chose the Piri Piri King Prawns (Rs. 2,250) and the Lagoon King Crab Curry (Rs. 5,690), which comes with yellow rice, pol sambol and a crispy onion sambol.

The prawns were humongous and well cooked, but it still took a bit of effort to clean out the flesh from the shell and various other paraphernalia that prawns will have. The gravy (seasoned with garlic, paprika and parsley with a dash of lemon) was the perfect complement to its fresh taste.

The crab curry was what finally put us into a food coma. One portion was easily enough for two people, especially after all the food we’d already had. The crab was cooked in the kirata fashion (with a coconut milk base) so it wasn’t too spicy. The rice was wonderful, lightly spiced with red chilli, and the simple pol sambol would have made my mother, an excellent cook, rather green with envy.

The portions were very generous. I think we ate far more than we should have. Greed can do horrible things to people.

We really had no room for dessert left after all this. But I had to try something for science (note my sacrifice for the readership YAMU bosses), and got us some Mango Crème Brulée (Rs. 650) to share. It was as fresh as anything else on the menu; sweet mango cut into tiny little pieces, on crème brulée. Just the right mix of soft and hard.

The Service

Every table gets its own dedicated staff member to see you through your meal. They are chatty without being intrusive and are always on hand to explain useful little details about the things you put in your mouth. The chef of the restaurant, the funny, enthusiastic and amicable Miguel Cirne frequently popped over to check on our experience. He even brought over his Philippe Starck designed, few of a kind lemon squeezer to season our prawns on the night we were there.

The Ambiance

Big Fish is spacious but still gives the impression of snug privacy through its well thought out interior design. Wood is a primary feature, and something about the ropes hanging from ceiling to floor gives you a sensation of the sea. Eating out in the terrace, with the fresh open sea breeze on your skin, is also an option. But not on a night like ours on which a hurricane steadily battered the hotel, so we stuck to the cosy insides instead.

Conclusion

The Marriot’s focus on food and beverage is keenly apparent in the cuisine on offer at The Big Fish. The service is warm and friendly, and the price/portion ratio highly competitive within its market segment. A fantastic place for a night out with friends or a date on the South coast.

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