Dutch Burgher Union Bar.

Perhaps the best place to get a drink anywhere in the city

A wonderful old colonial building with a sprawling lawn, a low-lit chandeliered ball room, amazing wood floored balconies and a high ceilinged bar replete with an ancient snooker table. Half a dozen devoted staff serving home-made ginger beer, keeping track of your billiard balls, retrieving errant darts and making gin and tonics. All this, absolutely to yourself. Sounds like the sort of boutique hotel fantasy people pay hundreds of dollars for, but actually this is the DBU clubhouse at the Thunmulla junction and access can be yours for the Rs. 20,000 joining fee. Finding a Burgher (or associate member) friend who can just sign you in works well too.

Despite it’s really stunning location and status as the stronghold of one of the world’s most distinguished Eurasian communities, the DBU is rarely packed. While they still make Colombo’s best lamprais, and hold the keys to the books of paternal lineage that determine who is, and who is not, a Dutch Burgher, decades of emigration means that on your average weekday and even on Saturdays the wonderful clubhouse is pitifully empty.

The member base is down to a die-hard coterie of geriatric Burgher aunties with too few old Burgher uncles left to even support regular games of snooker. This is a real shame as it’s difficult to describe what a beautiful and atmospheric space it is. The whole place seems to have frozen at some point shortly after independence when the majority of its members began to contemplate the great trek to the anonymous, antipodean suburbs of Melbourne.

Old world nostalgia aside though, the drinks are cheap (Rocklands Gin 50ml Rs 130), the food – beef smore, pork badun (Rs. 450) excellent, the place is gorgeous and due to a dearth of members you’ll have it all to yourself. For the few members who do go (seems to be about five people) it serves as an enormous private living room with attentive staff.

This is one of Colombo’s real hidden gems so do make the time for a visit. Evenings are best and though the upstairs is for members only you can either recruit a member friend or just wander up and hope the bar staff are sufficiently desperate for something to do that they serve you anyway (this often happens).

For those without Dutch East India company affiliated European paternal ancestry affiliate membership is also a good option as you really have all the privileges real membership bar some voting rights – and it’s the cheapest way, I can think of, of vastly expanding your living room.

Note- If your a bonafide Dutch Burgher with Rs 20,000 to spare and not yet a member you’re an idiot. If you’ve lived in Colombo for years and haven’t made the trip to sip an old reserve and ginger ale on a sultry weekday evening you’ve also really been missing out.

Photo here are from the DBU website

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