Panorama (Colombo City Hotel).

With its exceptional location (next door to the Dutch Hospital/opposite the World Trade Center) and rather fanciful French-colonial front (lots of balconies), the Colombo City Hotel looks rather promising.

In fact tourists tend to imagine it’s some sort of Colonial gem when it’s at most 15 years old. Despite all the promise though the hotel is, for the most part, a rather neglected, and faintly seedy spot. In fact the vast majority of the Dutch Hospital’s fashionable crowd wouldn’t be seen dead in it.

But this is a bit of a mistake. It is utterly central and its roof-top Panorama bar/restaurant benefits from really outstanding views. You are absolutely in the heart of the city (how did they get this real estate?), and you can look out over the Colombo skyline, the sea and the Fort’s colonial center. The western edge of the terrace also provides the best view of the Dutch Hospital. You get a better sense of how impressive and beautiful the restored 17th century building is from here than when you’re actually in Dutch Hoss.

It’s also very affordable- Rs 115 for for 50ml of DCSL arrack, Rs 260 for a lion. And while there’s something slightly sleazy about the place it’s still many grades up on your standard dodgy bar so women will feel comfortable(there are decent loos). Cheap booze, great views, reasonable prices what’s not to like?

Well there’s the small matter of the food. It’s really sub-par. Even the humblest of dodgy bars can usually serve up a palatable deviled pork but our cowboy chicken stroganoff (they excel at naming dishes, not cooking them) and chili pork were downright lousy. The chicken was bland beyond all reason and the pork was cooked to within an inch of its life and then a little bit more. Perhaps we should have tried something from their exceptionally named Panoroma’s Presentation of the Devil- deviled dish selection (really these people have a talent) .

So the food is best avoided but given the outstanding location, low drink prices and above average service it’s definitely worth a visit.

A sunset, a lion, some people watching achieved by peering into Dutch Hospital seems like a good bet. Mainly though you should come here to cry at the criminal waste of space. This could be one of the hottest places in the city and you could throw some amazing parties on the huge, breezy, terrace. But for now(and possibly for ever) it’s a sleepy spot in Fort. A standard watering hole for office workers with sub par bites.

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