Cinnamon Bey is big, and big on variety. With 200 rooms, a sprawling beach front property, two swimming pools, and 6 main restaurants, it's a full-fledged beach resort that caters to large groups, tourists, and the indigenous weekending Colombar.
For a boutique villa girl like me, Bey is a little overwhelming. There are families frolicking in the pool, lovers canoodling on the beach, tourists taking tokes off their Lonely Planets before passing it on to the tour group.
But if you're looking for a lot of choice, activities, and space, Bey is for you. It's also barely an hour and a half away from Colombo via the expressway, which makes it an easy breezy weekend drive.
The entrance is desert-like in its austerity, a lot of polished cement and monochrome patterns. I found the fishing boat wreckage structure (pictured above) in the open lobby strangely compelling too — what's the story here? The general style, orchestrated by celebrated architect Channa Daswatte, is meant to reflect the Arab roots of Beruwala's 10th century Moorish traders and settlers.
With vibrant mosaic-inspired blues, greens, mirrored work and breeze-beguiled canopies, there's a beautiful juxtaposition between the lobby/structure and the interior. Waterbodies sparkle throughout the property, from the two pools and courtyard fountain, to the shallow restaurant features and the azure Indian Ocean beyond.
Over 200 rooms ranging from Superior and Deluxe to the swank suites, are collected in symmetric cement structures, almost like upscale apartment blocks. We bedded in one of the deluxe rooms, a spacious spot featuring the usual amenities like a king size bed, flat screen TV, bath-tub, balcony, and his-and-hers sinks.
The monochrome tiles and the vibrant blue accents gave the room this luxe, energized vibe that we liked. The bathroom overlooked the deluxe rooms-only pool and the sea beyond, and made for some delightful afternoon soaking.
On a one night stay, it's tough to choose from 6 fully-stocked and individually run restaurants. You basically have no cause to leave the hotel at all. Please note that we couldn't include prices for individual dishes because we were on a full-board basis that had set menus. We had a look at the normal menus though, and you can prepare your wallet for slightly pricey rates — say around Rs. 1500 for a main.
We settled down for lunch at Fire, the upscale grill and pizzeria. The canopied outdoor seating was serene and shady, and the mosaic-tiled tables and comfy couch seating made for a super casual dining experience.
We started off with a Caesar Salad, which featured tender grilled marinated chicken, crunchy lettuce, and crispy bacon, topped with a little egg. Honestly, this was big enough for a main and we wish a straightforward Caesar like this was available in Colombo for hurried office lunches.
We also opted for a healthy minestrone — a simple concoction of tomato, herbs and spices, and a solid serving of mixed vegetables. Delicious, healthy, and served with some supple pita bread.
Our mains were a selection from both surf and turf. A grilled modha in lemon butter served with grilled vegetables, and a succulent beef burger with potato wedges and salad. Our fish lacked in texture what it made up for in flavour. It was a tad overcooked, the toughness not doing the region's lovely fresh marine produce justice at all. The lemon butter accompaniment and grilled salad were great though.
The burger was just massive. Featuring a host of components including a juicy beef pattie, chunky bits of tomato, crispy bacon, cheese slices, and a sliver of lettuce, it was a meal in itself. A real challenge to finish, it was very well executed and paired well with the fresh salad and grilled potato on the side.
That evening, we decided to explore Rock Salt (mostly out of curiosity). It turned out to be a funky DIY cooking experience, where you're both the diner and the chef. They fitted me out in a chef's hat and apron, and plopped down a hot lava stone in front of me so I could cook my own food. I was incredibly excited, to say the least.
We opened with a teapot soup, (kind of like a dobin mushi). Simple, salty, and featuring little chunks of chicken, the vegetables and the broth worked well together to create a healthy, warming opener.
I then plunged straight into my cooking station, tossing chicken with abandon first into the garlic butter sauce and then onto the spitting hot rock. In barely a minute, it was cooked through, lightly grilled and sizzling with a sheen of spiced butter. Delicious, and excellently executed (by myself, obviously).
We also attempted a shabu shabu, a nabemono hot pot dish which we paired with seafood. A bubbling pot of stock appeared before us, in which we tossed prawns, fish, and whatnot. Vastly superior to the simple starter soup, this was a stew with plenty of spice, vegetales, and flavour. Sure, this wasn't a traditional shabu shabu meal within which you perfunctorily dip paper-thin slices of beef in a hot pot and eat it immediately, but it was delicious and hot and we weren't complaining.
We wrapped up the already extensive meal with a rock salt classic triple homemade gelato combination. Salted caramel, cinnamon (of course), and an amazing honeycomb.
We were keen to try out the bar upstairs (I think it was called Grain), which features a "vodka wall", but we were too tired and stuck to a safe bottle of Chardonnay at the restaurant.
In general, the service was what you'd expect of a big hotel that knows the ropes of excellent hospitality. Quick, communicative, and efficient, the staff was happy to help at any point and anticipate our needs. We particularly enjoyed the enthusiasm of our waiter at Rock Salt, who was happy to facilitate our chef experience.
The only issues we'd really have here was the fact that it took almost 30 minutes to check in (an awful bore when you've just got off the equally snooze-worthy highway), and the fact that almost all the staff seemed to only initially address the male guest rather than me (in whose name the booking and payments were). We kept having to polite re-direct queries, bills, and conversation toward me, which was a little bothersome, but part and parcel of Lankan sensibilities.
If you're with a bunch of people who want different cuisines, different experiences, and a lot of action, Cinnamon Bey has got you covered. Comfortable sea-facing rooms, plenty of space to explore, a gorgeous sunset beach, not to mention a plethora of dining (and drinking) options. Crack open a book (or a beer), settle down by the sprawling pool, and start soaking in your holiday.
Prices at Cinnamon Bey vary depending on season, room types, and discounts, and promos, so you're best off checking out update prices on either their booking portal or on third party sites like booking.com.