One of Colombo’s best dodgy bars is, without a doubt, the Government Service Sports Club. Hidden behind the Baseline Road, a large crumbling building opens out onto a ramshackle garden scattered with a handful of metal chairs, plastic tables and a few melancholy cats looking to scrounge the crumbs off some fallen handallo. A teetering wall of stacked soda bottles lines the edge of the plot. Indoors are two rooms – one, a dim oblong drinking space with a blinking, static television, the other, a ‘pool room’ with low and lurid overhanging lights, an old pool table and, in our opinion the star of the club, a fantastically dusty, achingly antique snooker desk.
This is a magical piece of furniture. A blackboard-like rectangle sits at the centre of its upright back, and both above and below lie slim vaseline-coloured strips containing the numbers 0-20; in between are three stout lines spelling ‘pink’, ‘yellow’ and ‘blue’. Colombo’s dodgy bars can sometimes be home to amazing little pieces of furniture like this – big wooden fans, intricate lattices, the entire Castle Hotel building… It’s easy to be distracted by the alluring antiquities that so befit their humble surroundings, to imagine a time when dodgy bars weren’t actually so dodgy, where every shot glass was slammed down on a smooth wooden counter and where David Guetta didn’t exist.
We don’t know how long the Government Service Club has been around for – but this no star place offers absolutely five star service, hinting at a time before the birth of bouncer-guarded bastions like Kama and a nightclub culture that seems to ignore all aspects of good service.
If you’re tired of waiting to be served or being asked to leave for inappropriate attire, try the GSSC. It’s chilled out, the drinks are cheap, and they treat you like kings. And the bites are delicious – crispy little fillets of handallo encased in shining, golden batter – delicious when salted with the juice of a lime – long crunchy fries sprinkled with scarlet chilli powder, and a ‘special’ meat that we’ll say no more about… Go here if you want a relaxed drink in a large, breezy garden with waiters who are actually nice and genuinely seem to want you to have a good time.