Being the touristy hotspot it is, Ella is home to some gorgeous hotels (Hello, 98 Acres), with a rather expensive pricetag attached. The Ella Grand however, grants you a splendid view of the Ella Gap, as well as being a rather nice motel/ hotel. They've got a beautiful lawn, a dull beige bungalow-like building, and a couple of rather tame mongoose running around. While the service is nice and ambience great, the food is sadly lackluster and has room for improvement.
Food and Service
This place is owned by the Ceylon Hotels Corporation (CHC), so prices aren't sky-high. They've also got alcohol and a small selection of wines around, if you want to unwind after a long and arduous activity-filled day like we did. It's great to hang around in the evening and watch twilight descend, while sipping on some coffee and munching on some bites (except that the food was just sad).
Given that it was way past lunchtime and we were just there for the view and a nice place to hang around at, we went for a bowl of chicken soup (Rs. 260), which came with a few slices of toasted bread and a side of butter.
Bearing more resemblance to porridge in both texture and colour, this was a sad letdown in terms of taste. It was more like a salt-porridge, and there was absolutely no way to dilute the saltiness. Pity, because it was perfect weather and perfect time for a soup.
We then went for devilled beef to munch on, and figured it was reasonably priced at Rs. 480. It's a large and generous dish, and looks ok albeit being peppered with flakes of chilli and capsicums.
I don't know how to write this nicely, because honestly, this was also a disappointment. The dish was cold when it arrived, and the beef extremely rubbery and hard to eat. The paprika did spice it up which was nice, but the overall blandness of this dish was overwhelming. How can anyone get this so wrong?
The pot of coffee (Rs. 180) enough for two people, was decent enough. Judging from the taste and flavour I hazard a guess that it's Harischandra, and you can't really go wrong with a black brew. Their orange juice (Rs. 250) was rather a bit pricey for the juice we received, given that there was nothing exceptional about it and that it had a rather watery quality as well.
Deciding to give the place another chance to redeem itself, we tried out their portion of chips (Rs. 380) which was regular old store-bought/frozen frenchfries.
I'm happy to say they didn't mess this up by frying it to a crisp, or by serving it half cold either. Yay!
We asked the staff to sprinkle some chilli on it, and they did, but this was severely lacking in salt. Ironic, given how the soup was overflowing with it. When we eventually received the salt shaker and used it without much success, I finally unscrewed it to discover that it was half full with grains of rice, not salt. What the what. -,-
Except for the fries, I wouldn't recommend any of the food we tried here, and would rate it 1.5 /5 stars. It's actually quite bad, but the coffee and the fries were ok, so I don't want to give it one star. This is a bit of a tough one.
Service and Ambience
Disregarding the food, the place is great. They have a large istoppuwa out front, with cozy seating arrangements, and a few tables and chairs sprawled across the lawn at the back; which incidentally overlooks the Ella gap.
Waitstaff are slightly unattentive and lost, but friendly and accomodating. They also have two really tame mongoose around, which they feed.
You can't pet them, though. Sigh.
Ferocious as this little fella looks, he was merely in the middle of chewing something. Don't worry, the guys here are really harmless and are more afraid of you than you'd be of them.
Great ambience, okay service, quite terrible food. Go here, but only if you need a place to kill time as you wait for your next train or bus out of town.