Gecko is a restaurant/hotel located on the highly popular main strip of Arugam Bay. They have a great seafront location with chilled out seating and good food, but the service is terrible.

The Service

We usually begin our reviews with the food, but I have to commence with a note on service here.

The service at Gecko is appallingly bad – even when the owners are physically present at the restaurant. A simple order of two iced coffees took about 45 minutes to arrive and an order of two portions of poached eggs with bacon turned up with one of the portions sans bacon. We also located, with disgust, a stray curl of hair in one of our meals. I could go on.

The sheer frustration of having to wait so long for a meal to then have it turn up all wrong makes the tastiness of the food somewhat irrelevant – especially infuriating when the owners seem unconcerned and unapologetic.

The Food

The food at Gecko is good, if a bit expensive. They serve a very good anti pasti platter (Rs. 795), containing sun dried tomatoes (a rarity in Sri Lanka), tzatsiki, olives, grated cheese and garlic bread. The sandwiches and burgers (Rs. 750-850) are interesting due to the home baked bread (local burger buns are not the greatest) – which is soft, lightly dusted with flour and generally very tasty. What’s a bit bizarre, however, is that all the food is served more or less unseasoned, with salt and pepper presented separately. The chicken sandwich is quite literally two hunks of bread served with diced chunks of breast – nothing else. No salt, no sauce. Just a bit of salad on the side. While this – once seasoned – is nice, it does feel like there’s a little something missing. A touch of garlic, perhaps a bit of mayo to moisten what’s otherwise a rather dry meal. It tastes healthy though, and distinctly un-Sri Lankan – which probably goes down just fine in a tourist dominated town.

The menu includes, breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks as well as home made ice cream (which we didn’t try). The restaurant is pretty much open all day and sometimes serves woodfired pizza in the evenings.

The Hotel

Gecko does have a good ambiance and some basic if decent accommodation. Besides the restaurant there’s one cabana we have stayed at in the past. It’s a basic beach cabana (like everything around Arugam Bay) with a functional if not very appealing bathroom. You can also crash on a lofted area above that, waking up to (and with) the sunrise over the sea. The rooms are fine and the location is really good (stone’s throw from the beach, walking distance to everything on the strip). As with the restaurant, however, the service may lead to some unpleasant experiences.

The Conclusion

The food at Gecko is fine, good even. You won’t get the big, bold flavours of Unawatuna or Hikkaduwa, but it tastes healthy and an anti pasti platter is always a fun change from the usual mountain of MSG riddled fried rice. The setting is laidback and comfortable – there are big benches and colourful floor cushions to relax on. The service, however, is a big, big miss. The food, however nice it may be, simply isn’t worth it for the poor treatment you’re likely to receive.

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