The Promenade at ODEL.

Food courts never really took off in Colombo. They are a general staple of the South East Asian dining scene- I mean wandering around Singapore of Jakarta more often than not you end up in some sort of enclosed air-conditioned food cluster, whether it’s in a mall or just at the base of a residential building. However in Colombo the stalls and communal dining hall concept failed to fly. I suspect this has something to do with the general failure of shopping malls in the city.

Now this lack of malls isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it makes Colombo distinctive – an enclosed air-conditioned food court in a mall in Jakarta looks exactly like one in Singapore or Beijing. However, putting their innate blandness aside it is sometimes useful to be able to wander into a squeaky clean, equipped with nice loos and plenty of seating food court and chose from a bunch of reliable and inexpensive food options. When the craving for a big selection at a bargain price strikes you in Colombo, however you basically have three options- the generally unappealing but well-priced selection of food in Majestic City, the smaller but still not particularly attractive bunch of stalls in Crescat or the half dozen or so options at Odel’s little food-courtyard,

The food at the Odel’s court is nothing to write home about but the setting is a little more swish. Breaking from the Asia food court archetype it’s outdoors, cooled by little jets of fine mist and shaded by a clutch of frangipani tress. There are carp pools too so aesthetically this is a pretty superior food court though the food isn’t particularly high-end. There are outlets of the more expensive Il Gelatos and the Mango Tree/ Jack Tree Thai/Indian restaurant combo but otherwise you get Colombo classics like Harpo’s pizza, Chariot pastries, roots juice, Elephant House hotdogs, and the little magic corn stall. We arent’ talking the Gardaria mall, Jakaraa, with its 60 + choices or Wisma Atria’s excellent food court in Singapore but at reasonable prices all Colombo’s basic fast-food groups are represented. There’s fried rice- Chariot, short eats- Chariot, juices – roots, meat in a bun Elephant House, Pizza- Harpos.

My top picks are Il Gelatos – people complain about the prices but the sundaes aren’t bad value and the ice cream is the best commercially available in the city, Roots – got to be mango passion fruit juice with perhaps a slice of Harpo’s pizza. If you’re in or near Odels and find yourself needing to kill a few minutes or silence some hunger pangs this is a handy enough place to drop into. Beware though the scarcity of seating means at peak times – ie lunch, securing a table isn’t fun. In the afternoons though it’s even good for a lingering conversation with friends who happen to work / live in vicinity.

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