Colombo Courtyard Poolside.

Colombo Courtyard’s design and style are brilliant, as we’ve mentioned before in the hotel review. It’s chic, it’s tasteful, and a lot of it is upcycled. The food, on the other hand, leaves a lot to be desired.

We previously visited for lunch and had a gamberi saltati con caponata – fresh lagoon prawns served with bell peppers, courgettes and aubergine provençal. The flavours were great, while the prawn was a little squashy, as though it had been partially overcooked. Yet, at Rs. 450 a portion, it was pretty great.

Ambience

This time around, we had issues the second we sat down. The poolside area was rife with insects – spiders and ants fell from the foliage above while our feet were ravaged by mosquitos. Living in Sri Lanka, none of us are strangers to the occasional bloodsucker but the air around our feet was actually swarming. We requested the waiter to get a mosquito coil or atleast turn the fan towards us when we ordered, but fifteen minutes later neither was done and we decided to leave because the infestation was physically unbearable. The experience was a huge contrast to the lovely, languid poolside afternoon setting.

We asked if we could sit in the Scarlet Room, as that’s where the poolside menu was from, but they told us it was closed for lunch. So eventually we were seated at the new wine lounge area, Grape Expectations. It’s a cute alcove right near the entrance, which serves as a simultaneous wine cellar and lounge. There’s just about two tables there, sheltered by an air curtain, which means it’s got natural light and a nice view but you still have A/C.

It features some interesting beaten iron tables with inbuilt ashtrays, and the view of the chilling wine is somehow peaceful. There’s also some quirky artwork hanging about, although the screen print “”mosquito”” by Asvajit Boyle seemed a tad ironic given the circumstances.

Food & Drinks

We ordered a chicken pesto and grilled vegetable with cheese panini, a pappardelle alla crema di gamberi, salmone affumicato e funghi pasta – a paparadelle pasta in creamy salmon, prawn and mushroom sauce, and an insalata cesare con il pollo e pancetta – Caesar salad.

At Rs. 700, the chicken panini was a bit on the smaller side, but the taste was great (refer album for pictures). It was well assembled and not too saucy or dry. A good lunchtime snack, and we were quite happy with it although the wisdom of spending Rs. 700 on a sandwich is questionable. The Caesar salad was really quite nice, with a convenient bowl of dressing given separately. It had plenty of chicken and bacon, and the quantity was good.

The pasta was the real problem. We ordered a home-made pasta at Rs. 800, as it seemed a good way to gauge the kitchen’s prowess. The presentation and aroma were great, but the pasta itself was really hard and appeared to be very undercooked. The salmon, prawn and wild mushroom blend was quite piquant and was offset well by the creamy herb and white wine sauce, but it was wasted on the pasta which was inedible.

We sent it back to the kitchen asking for something else to replace it and finally agreed on a carbonara – a simple, straightforward option. However, it was a bit dissapointing too. The spaghetti was blissfully cooked properly this time, the sauce rather nice, but the natural mild sourness of the presumably local parmesan somehow didn’t do well. It was also simply too oily, which meant it started to congeal as it naturally cooled down (refer photo below). The egg was also not neatly blended into the sauce, and ended up in little bits on top of the pasta as though an egg had been cracked on top as an after thought. A disappointing replacement for a disappointing dish.

The desserts were very good, and really quite cheap. We ordered a home-made raspberry ice cream and a warm chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream. The raspberry ice cream came in two big scoops at a very very reasonable Rs. 200, with a lovely chocolate lace swan perched on top(refer album). It was fresh and fruity without being too sweet, and redeemed the meal to some extent. The brownie too was very squashy and chocolatey, everything a brownie should be. At Rs. 350, it was also reasonable and presented very well with an artsy chocolate lace design, the scoop of ice cream in a hollowed out orange peel, and a nice trail of chocolate and white chocolate sauce. We really enjoyed it.

We ordered a glass of the house prosecco, a masia perelada cava brut at Rs. 900. It was a refreshing afternoon drink, sweet and dry. There’s a pretty substantial wine selection, but the individual glass prices are exorbitant for the mediocre Tall Horse options.

Service

The place did seem very busy to be honest, so we gave our harried waiter a fair amount of leeway. Sure, waiting for the coil and the fan was annoying but we were a lot happier once we reached the cosy comfort of the wine lounge. He was as quick as efficient as possible for the most part of the meal, despite having to shuttle between the poolside and the wine lounge.

However, the fairly simple dessert took over 20 minutes to arrive, and the bill took 45 minutes. We honestly considered walking out because we’d asked three different waiters in varying shirt colours in the hope someone would give us the bill. 45 minutes is just unacceptable.

Worse still, they charged us for the abysmal pasta that we sent back.

Conclusion

A shockingly large number of things went wrong with this meal. The setting was beautiful, the menu promising, but the end product was just not that great. The entire lunch took 2 hours and 40 minutes, which is just horrific as we had workplaces to return to. We were not happy at all.
As much as I used to adore Courtyard, I think I’ll stick to their lovely bar/lounges for a post-work beer and probably won’t return for a meal for a while.

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